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Goat diseases

 
Valerie Dawnstar
Posts: 292
Location: North Central New York
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What are the most common to watch out for? Treatments? How about some good reference materials in caring for goats? I heard a horsewoman who started keeping goats quote her vet after asking what was wrong with her goats, saying, " Goats die." Didn't sound very hopeful to me.
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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In 20 some years of keeping goats off and on, the biggest problem was intestinal worms. Goats are by nature desert and mountain creatures and to keep them in damp rainy climates is asking for trouble from this and other problems. The last time I had them I had pretty good luck with natural herbal wormers ("Restore" was the one brand name I recall...wormwood mostly....stands to reason given it's name), and on occasion resorted to ivermectin (put up in oral syringes for horses....just adjust the weight for the dose). If they are on pasture try to rotate. Goats really shouldn't eat close to the ground...that's how the worms spread is when they poop onto damp grass and then they eat there too soon. An agonizing way for a goat to die!
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1532
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Bloat is a goat killer. I was glad I recognized what was going on and the vet was "in" on a Saturday morning. He confirmed that it was bloat, put a tube down her throat and put what seemed like a large amount of mineral oil in. By the time I got her home, she was normal sized again.

I travel in a cargo van, with the goat(s) in the back. She burped out the foulest gases. The ride home was memorable.

I'd like to know how I could treat her at home, and is it possible that she got it from eating too much dried alfalfa leaf that fell off the stem. She had been on alfalfa hay. And daily extended grazing opportunities for her choice green feed. If she ate too much fine textured food, and not enough coarse fiber would that cause the bloating?

Thekla
 
Deborah Niemann
Posts: 72
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I'm not surprised to hear that a vet had such a negative attitude towards goats. It is tough to find a good goat vet because there are not that many goats in this country. That's actually how I wound up learning so much! I have to drive my goats two hours away to the University of Illinois vet clinic, so I was learning as the vet professors were explaining everything to the students as they worked on my goats.

The #1 killer of goats is intestinal parasites, and Raising Goats Naturally has a 24 page chapter on parasites, so it's kind of tough to summarize it here, but Alder already gave some good info. I tried three very popular herbal worm remedies, none of which worked on our farm. I did not use Restore, so don't have any personal experience to share on that one. However, I have started growing my own wormwood, and when one of my goats has problems, I just pick some of the wormwood and give it to them. Usually, goats with parasites problems gobble it up, but not always, so I do sometimes have to resort to something like ivermectin. When using chemical dewormers, you should always use the oral meds (drench) and use 2X the dose on the bottle when using Safeguard, Valbazen, Ivomec, or Cydectin. Use only 1.5X when using Levamisole because it has a much smaller margin of error, and an overdose will make a goat very sick and sometimes kill it.

The #2 killer of goats is pneumonia, which is caused by poor air quality, so the goats need to be outside, every day unless it's storming or snowing. Goats also hate to get wet! And please do NOT insulate your barn or goat house. It is impossible to keep ammonia from forming, so it needs to be able to escape. It can start to damage a goat's lungs before our noses can even smell it. Most sources say that the barn should be well ventilated but not drafty, which drives people crazy because what does that mean? Well, you should have a door or a window open on the side where you don't have wind blowing in, so the ammonia can escape, but you haven't created a wind tunnel.

Bloat is merely a symptom (not a disease) and can result when just about anything upsets the rumen. We have only had two cases of it here in 13 years, and it was two half-sibling la mancha does. None of my NDs has ever had bloat. Generally a big change in diet can cause a number of different possible problems in the rumen, such as bloat, enterotoxemia, or thiamine deficiency (goat polio).

In my two cases of bloat, I treated the goats myself. I gave the first one an ounce of cooking oil (probably sunflower, which we usually have), and she was fine in about half an hour. The other required a second dose of one ounce. I have a 30 cc drench syringe, which is one ounce. It's also a good idea to walk them around, which can be challenging because they want to just lie down.

Raising Goats Naturally has 27 pages on illnesses, injuries, and diseases. But the most important thing is to get your nutrition and management right! If you get the nutrition and management right, you should not be seeing problems in your goats. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all recipe for how to raise goats. What works on my farm would not even work on the farm that's four miles away from me because they don't have sulfur in their well water like we do, which totally changes my goats' nutritional needs. At this point, some people think that goats sound too complicated, but they really aren't. And the point of my book is to give everyone the basic information on goats' nutritional needs so that you can figure out the best way to raise goats on YOUR farm. I always say "listen to your goats," and I give you the info so that you can understand what your goats are telling you. For example, if your red goat is suddenly cream colored and has a forked tail (instead of a bushy tail), it's probably copper deficient. Once you figure out how to raise goats on your farm, it's really easy! For the first five years we had goats, about 1/3 of them were not getting pregnant or staying pregnant, they were milking poorly, and all of our bucks died before the age of three. After figuring out what they needed, we now have amazing fertility with does having lots of triplets, quads, and even quintuplets, and our oldest buck is now 10 years old. Plus our milk production is excellent. It's the same genetics we had 10 years ago; we just changed our nutritional and management program.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1532
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Wow, Deborah, that's fascinating! I like knowing that part of the challenge is getting the resident goat population acclimated to the local conditions. I once heard a talk by Fred Provenza about how successive generations on the same property adjust to the conditions and better utilize what is there. Seems like your increase in fertility proves his point.

About the goat drench, what kind of equipment do I look for and how do I use it? Is it a tube that goes all the way to the stomach? I think that's what the vet used. What is the secret to getting her to swallow rather than inhale the tube? I don't want to put the oil into her lungs.

And the funny thing about my goat with bloat is that she had not changed feed. We were following a regular routine, and that's what made me think she found a lot of leaf at the bottom of the feeder and ate too much of that, though she'd been having it available right along. I guess I'll never know for sure what happened that time, but I really would like to know I could take care of it without the 70.00 trip to the vet. I realize I am lucky to have a vet savvy goat available, but like to conserve my time and financial resources by taking care of things myself.

Thekla
 
Kurt Stailey
Posts: 36
Location: Indiana, zone 6
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I have no idea if anyone else has noticed this, but the goats seem to have a knack for going for what they need if you make it available. We are now planting most herbs/plants we use for worming if they grow in our climate and leave them as free choice. We used to be on a mission to eliminate all the poison hemlock we could find on the farm until we saw the goats eating it. After freaking out and then them not dying, I think now perhaps they just "know" they have an issue and will eat things they need, even if it is something they will not usually eat. I am not suggesting anyone feed their goats known poisonous plants, but we have yet to lose an animal because of them finding an eating it and now do not simply cut down anything we think might be bad for them.

We look at behavior, eye lid color, feces, and then physical attribute like hair color, fish tail, hoof growth and horn growth (we do not disbud/dehorn, which according to wikipedia makes us irresponsible goat owners but thats okay), usually in that order, to try and find illness/deficiency.
 
Deborah Niemann
Posts: 72
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Thekla, this is what a drenching syringe looks like:
https://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=487a8e94-f6a4-441a-a2ea-348b93077098
I also have a 60 cc that I use for giving homemade goat yogurt to goats that need probiotics or for giving water to a goat that is dehydrated and won't drink. You just put it over the back of their tongue and depress slowly so they have time to swallow. I usually straddle the goat's neck so that the head is sticking out from between my legs, and I can hold the head with one hand and use the other for the syringe. If a goat is down, it's actually harder to give them anything because they usually still have enough strength in their neck to fight you.

Kurt, quite a few people have anecdotally made the same observation about goats eating what they need and not over-eating something that is poisonous to them. The scientific literature actually states that goats have a higher tolerance for "poison" than sheep or cows. Michael Pollan actually mentioned in one of his books that goats will eat a tiny bit of a new plant to test it out and make sure it doesn't make the sick before eating a lot of it. There was a member of my Nigerian dwarf goat group a few years ago who said that she had a pasture with oleander in it, which is highly poisonous, and the goats never touched it until they had eaten everything else in that pasture. Then they did start eating it, and sadly one of them died. Years ago I met someone who planted an herb garden just for their goats, and if they were noticing that a goat was "off," they'd put it in there and let it eat whatever it wanted.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1532
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Thanks, I can probably find that at the local feed and farm supply store. Thanks so very much. I get attached to my goats, hate to see them suffer (to the extent I think sometimes they take advantage of me).

Now, about the goat in need of probiotics, how can you tell they are in need? I know that human babies are born through the birth canal which has just been flushed with amniotic fluid which is full of lactobacilli of various strains and species and a cocktail of an assortment of countless bacteria crucial to our survival. (C section babies miss out and pay dearly for it!) And that is how we get the bacteria we need to help digest milk, so, in a goat kid, is it a matter of failure to thrive and non normal poop? Or, if I did give an antibiotic to an adult, or worm them, then would that be a time to reintroduce bacteria to their digestive systems?

Thekla
 
Deborah Niemann
Posts: 72
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I give it to adults that are off feed so that their rumen doesn't get off balance. And although I haven't needed to use an antibiotic in years, I would give them some yogurt in that situation also.
 
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