TRANSPORTING MEAT GOATS
Goats as a species are easily stressed, and stress can lead to illness, abortion, and death. Anything that involves change in a goat's life is a potential stressor. Transporting goats from one location to another is one of those unwelcome but sometimes necessary changes. This article contains suggestions on reducing stress during the transport of meat goats that are not destined for slaughter. Some of the products recommended in this article have withdrawal times that prevent their being used on terminal animals.
United States livestock producers have long recognized that moving animals from one location to another can result in health problems. Examples: South-to-north movement presents warm-to-cold weather adjustment issues, while west-to-east travel has dry to wet-weather health consequences. Weather conditions at points of departure and arrival and all points in between must be factored into transport decisions. Goats need special care when being transported, and they require time to adapt to their new surroundings before they are put to work.
Heavily-pregnant does and very young kids should not be moved until the does have kidded and the kids are at least eight weeks old. Do not buy long-bred does and move them with the expectation that soon-to-kid does will provide a head start to your goat-breeding operation. This plan will backfire as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. Abortions, weak kids, and deaths await you, and you likely won't be prepared to cope with them. Inexperienced people are buying dozens and even hundreds of cheap and very pregnant does and hauling them many miles to completely different climatic conditions; a flood of health and kidding problems begins as the goats come off the transport - assuming that the troubles didn't already begin during the travelling.
Do not buy and transport does that are more than three-and-one-half months pregnant. If a doe's pregnancy is obvious and she is "bagging up" (udder is filling with milk), do not buy her and move her. If you want to purchase her, make arrangements for her to kid at her current residence and move her and the kids when they are eight weeks old. If this arrangement is not possible, do not buy the goat. Newborns and young kids operate off their dams' immune systems. Their dams carry immunities specific to their current location. Time is needed for the goats to adapt and develop immunities to the "bugs" (bacteria, worms, coccidia, viruses, and other organisms) to which they will be newly exposed. All of the new goats will be vulnerable to parasites and disease, but this is especially true of pregnant dams and young kids.
In the rare instance that following these rules is an impossibility, the recommendations listed below are offered to help to minimize the damage:
Prior to loading, all pregnant does should be injected with Oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or equivalent). Using an 18-gauge needle, the injection should be given sub-cutaneously (SQ) over the ribs. The proper dosage is five (5) cc's per 100 pounds bodyweight. This injection serves two purposes: (1) Prevent "shipping fever," which is the name given to any stress-related illness attributable to transport; and (2) Reduce the possibility of abortions. (See this writer's articles on abortions on the Articles page for a detailed explanation of why this is important.)
Underweight (malnourished and/or worm-laden) does may abort due to the stress of being moved despite the usage of Oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml. This recommendation carries with it the presumption that quality nutrition and care have been given these animals since conception. This may be incorrect, because most people who have hundreds of goats to sell are either in the slaughter business or are brokers who have likely bought them from auction houses or commercial producers. Commercial goats receive minimal input in order to maximize profitability and may have already experienced the stress of one or more moves. Unfortunately, too many of the animals coming out of states with large numbers of goats are being sold as breeding stock when they were originally destined for slaughter sale because of health problems like mastitis, bad feet, disease, or dystocia (kidding problems). If a seller does not have sire/dam records, ages of specific goats, and can't tell you exactly where they came from, then the seller is probably a broker and not the producer who raised the goats. Some brokers are honest business people and some are not. Get references and check them out -- as you would do in any other important business transaction. There is no surplus of quality meat goats in the USA. Demand far exceeds supply and will for a long time. At the present time (2006-2007), meat-goat numbers are actually declining. Often (but not always) goats purchased through a commercial auction were someone else's problem and that is why they were sold.
Never crowd goats; leave plenty of room for air circulation and animal movement. Pregnant does must be shipped separately from all other goats. The transport vehicle must protect them from bad weather (rain, cold, wind, extreme heat), and good ventilation is critical. Fresh clean water should be offered frequently and grass hay should be available free choice.
Bucks, wethers, weanlings of both sexes, and open does should be administered Nasalgen IP 48 hours prior to shipment. Nasalgen IP is an over-the-counter product made by Schering-Plough Corp.; it is a fast-acting, early onset protection (48 hours) intra-nasal respiratory vaccine that is packaged in single-dose vials. If Nasalgen IP is not available, Oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml can be used and administered in the same manner that it is given to pregnant does. Bucks should be transported separately from all other goats. Bucks in rut are dangerous animals; they can and do injure each other and other goats travelling with them. Under favorable conditions, wethers can be transported with weanlings and open does; group them by age as well as sex. Older goats (eight years old or older) should be grouped by sex and transported with goats in their same age range. Older bred does should never be moved until after they've successfully kidded and their kids are eight weeks of age.
Ideally all goats should be current on CD/T and pneumonia vaccinations and have been recently dewormed. If six months has passed since vaccinations were given, boost the CD/T and the pneumonia vaccine. This writer prefers the CD/T vaccine made by Colorado Serum as well as that company's over-the-counter pneumonia vaccine -- Mannheimia Haemolytica Pasteurella Multocida Bacterin. If the goats are not current on these vaccines, then the usage of Nasalgen IP or Oxytetracyline 200 mg/ml (LA 200 or equivalent) is essential. This writer uses Nasalgen IP when shipping goats (except pregnant does, for whom Oxytetracycline 200 mg/ml is preferred) even if other vaccines are current.
Do not offer sacked feeds during transit. Grass hay and/or alfalfa hay provide sufficient nutrition and are better for their travelling rumens. Make sure that adequate amounts of the hay and sacked feed that they have been eating at the old location are taken to the new site so that a seven-to-ten-day feed transition can be done. If the seller cannot tell the buyer what the goats have been eating, this is another red flag about the background of these animals. Reputable brokers will not represent themselves to be the producers who raised the goats.
The producer must gather kidding supplies, including colostrum replacer (not colostrum supplement), to send with the goats for emergencies. See this writer's article Preparing for Kidding on the Articles page for a list of essential supplies. Minimize stops; break only for food, fuel, and offering fresh clean water (not too hot or too cold) to the goats. If the outside temperature is extremely hot, travelling mostly at night and resting in a shady spot during the day may be necessary. Each trip must be tailored to weather, geography, and the condition of the goats being moved.
Livestock shipping regulations are undergoing change in the United States, with some indication that over-the-road haulers will be required to offload animals at specified time intervals. In this writer's opinion, these regulations may do more harm than good in some instances. The people writing these rules apparently don't understand how much stress is involved in unloading and reloading livestock in general and goats in particular. It appears that the regulations will be one-size-fits-all -- and it will be the animals who will suffer.
New arrivals should be fed only grass hay and clean water for the first 24 hours in their new residence. Any indication of being off-feed should be addressed promptly. Keep a rectal thermometer available.It is not unusual for a goat to develop fever when relocated. A goat with fever usually goes off feed but will drink a lot of water if the water is not too hot, too cold, or taste odd. Since newly-acquired goats shouldalways be quarantined, observing their behavior should be easy. Avoid over-crowding; keep areas clean and draft-free. Consider boosting the goats' immune systems with an injection of Poly Serum or Bovi Sera.See this author's article entitled Diagnosing Illnesses in Goats on the Articles page at for more information.
Now for the big recommendation that most producers won't like to read: Do NOT breed the newly-acquired does for at least three months. Give them time to adapt to their new surroundings and develop immunities specific to the organisms living at their new home. Doing this may cost you some profit in the short run, but in the long run your goats will be healthier. If you follow these recommendations, health problems and deaths should be minimal, and you will be glad that you took the time and actions needed to create a healthy goat herd that will contribute to your "bottom line."
Important! Please Read This Notice!
All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.
The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)
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