Nutrition and husbandry are important contributors to the health of our small ruminant friends. Ensuring a balanced diet helps prevent gastrointestinal and urinary tract disease. Goats, sheep, and camelids should be vaccinated annually and have their hooves trimmed on a regular basis. The CDT vaccine protects all small ruminants against clostridium perfringens type C and D, as well as clostridium tetani (tetanus). These organisms are commonly found in the environment including soil.
This vaccine should be given as follows:
Adult goats with unknown history or never vaccinated: Two doses about 4 weeks apart, then annual boosters or booster more frequently if heavily fed on grain.
Kids: If kids received colostrum from properly vaccinated does, give kids their first booster at 6 weeks to 2 months of age. If they did not receive colostrum from properly vaccinated does, start boosters at 1 month and give 3 doses at 4 week intervals.
Herd health is vitally important when purchasing new goats, if is highly advised to purchase goats from farms who complete health testing or who will allow you to test prior to bringing them home. There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as bringing home livestock or pets only to find out they have a crippling or contagious disease that results in untimely death or considerable financial loss of the animal. All 3 of the most common tests can be sent to a diagnostic lab using the same blood sample, making it a simple cost effective answer that can save much heart ache in the future.
Important testing to consider testing for:
CAE - Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) virus is a small ruminant lentivirus (SRLV), which is a group of closely related viruses that can cause chronic disease in multiple organ systems. There is no treatment for SRLV and animals that develop clinical disease will not recover. Supportive care can be given in some cases to make less affected goats more comfortable. Many goats acquire the disease at an early age and remain infected for life. Not all infected animals will show clinical signs, but they can still spread the virus. Infection in goats younger than six months can result in encephalomyelitis and clinical signs including posterior weakness and ataxia progressing to paralysis. Clinical signs in adult goals include lameness, stiffness, reluctance to walk or rise, walking on knees, swollen joints, abnormal posture or movement, weight loss/wasting, firm and/or swollen udder, and cough or respiratory difficulties. CAE virus is quite common in goats in the United States, with some estimates as high as 70%.
CL - Caseous lymphadenitis (CL, occasionally abbreviated CLA) is a bacterial infection caused by Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis resulting in superficial or internal abscesses and recurrent development of abscesses. In severe cases, wasting can occur due to internal abscesses interfering with normal organ function. CL is spread from animal to animal primarily through contact with material from abscesses (pus) or fomites (inanimate objects) contaminated with abscess material. When abscesses are present in the lungs, the organism may be transmitted through respiratory secretions (nasal discharge or coughing). In rare cases, C. pseudotuberculosis may be present in the milk. Although CL is not sexually transmitted, it is recommended to avoid natural breeding of animals with abscesses to prevent transmission via close contact. The organism can survive for extended periods of time in the soil and environment, which could be a source of infection.
There are two testing methods offered:
- culture to detect the bacterial organism in abscess material
- serology to detect C. pseudotuberculosis-specific antibodies in sheep and goat blood samples
Johnes - Johne’s (pronounced “Yoh-nees”) disease and paratuberculosis are two names for the same animal disease. Named after a German veterinarian, this fatal gastrointestinal disease was first clearly described in a dairy cow in 1895. Scanning electron micrograph of a single MAP cell. A bacterium named Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (abbreviated “MAP”) is the cause of Johne’s disease. The infection happens in the first few months of a goat’s life but the animal may stay healthy for a very long time. Symptoms of disease may not show up for many months to years after the infection starts. This period of time is called the “incubation period”. MAP infections are contagious, which means it can spread from one goat to another, and from one species to another (cows to goats, goats to sheep, etc.). MAP is very hardy – while it cannot replicate outside of an infected animal, it is resistant to heat, cold and drying. Testing is most useful at the herd—and not the individual animal—level. Johne’s fecal PCR, Johne’s culture, and the Johne’s commercial ELISA tests can be used in various combinations, with the most information for detecting MAP infection coming at the greatest cost. Confirmation of positive ELISA results by Direct Fecal PCR on feces is strongly recommended. Follow ALL submission criteria for fecal samples as stated above.
Parasite prevention and treatment
Parasitism is one of the most common diseases affecting small ruminants, especially in the southeastern United States. The most prevalent parasite among this population is the barber pole worm, Haemonchus contortus. It causes anemia, diarrhea, malabsorption, and can be fatal if left untreated. It is imperative to monitor mucus membrane color (FAMACHA score) regularly and treat affected animals with the appropriate dewormer when indicated. In addition fecal egg count is also critical since not all parasites can be determined based on FAMACHA alone.
Fecal egg counting is a method to determine the number of worm eggs excreted per gram of feces (EPG). Fecal egg counts (FECs) have many uses in parasite control programs. They can be used to estimate the parasite load in an animal, show changes in the seasonal levels of pasture infection, determine effectiveness of dewormers, and evaluate genetic differences in animals.
It is critical to address parasite issues immediately to prevent losses, although there are emergency measures such as transfusions and running fluid therapy the outcome is not always positive.
Disbudding and dehorning
Most goat breeds develop horns. Horns are beneficial for protection from predators and heat dissipation. However, horns can cause problems for producers when they are handling goats, and horned goats can injure other goats in shared housing. Therefore, many operations choose to disbud their kid goats.
Disbudding is a procedure performed on kid goats to ensure their horns will not develop. This procedure is typically performed on kids between the age of 7-14 days. After three weeks of age, the developing horn tissue will have attached to the skull and is more difficult to remove. Using proper disbudding technique and disbudding during the appropriate time frame will decrease the number of goats that develop scurs and decrease the number of disbudding-associated injuries.
Male goat (buck) kids that are not being kept as future herd sires are usually castrated (neutered) so that they will no longer be fertile. Fertile male goats have a strong smell during the breeding season and do unpleasant things like urinate on their beards to impress females. The ideal age for surgical castration is after 4-5 months of age, when the urinary tract has had sufficient time to develop and decrease the risk of blockage from urinary calculi, a life threatening condition. This is a simple field surgery that we can perform at your farm.