It's a shame when you're too afraid to get some goats because you've heard so much about goat health care problems. Well, don't worry any longer. It's time to get some goats.
By studying and following this guide, you will become a confident goat farmer who can manage your goat's health care needs and do the following:
It's easy to fall in love with a goat. They've got cute faces, some have big floppy ears, and all have mouths that always seem to be chewing something.
You think to yourself, "I've got to have one! How hard can it be to raise a goat?" Next thing you know you've got a few of these adorable creatures and you realize one of them looks sick.
Don't panic. We're here to guide you through the process of goat health care with tips and tricks for diagnosing and treating your goat.
If you're just getting started with goats, be sure to also check out our guide,
By the end of this article you'll be equipped with all of the goat health care knowledge and power you need to give these goats a healthy life.
Disclaimer: This article is not to be considered veterinary advice. The information here is merely intended as educational. When making specific decisions about your goat health care, it's always best to consult a veterinarian qualified to treat small ruminants like goats.
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Knowing your goats' personalities and routines is of utmost importance for monitoring your goat health care. Symptoms of illness are often subtle, and any change in their behavior could mean there’s an issue and you should call your vet.
On the other hand, as you gain experience, you may feel you are comfortable handling some of your goat's health care issues yourself without a veterinarian, to save some time and money. Any vet you pick should be an expert in small ruminants and, in particular, goat health care. A ruminant is an animal (like a goat) that has a special digestive system designed to digest things like plants and trees. A good place to find a vet that's qualified in goat health care is through the breeder who you bought your goat from. You can also ask for recommendations, call local vets and see if they treat small ruminants, or look online. Just be extremely careful. There are plenty of stories of vets who didn't really understand the unique aspects of goat health care, but they attempted a procedure like they would for a dog or cat, with disastrous results like permanent injury to the goat, or death. Before selecting your vet, find out how many goats they've treated in the past, and when was the last time. If it sounds like they haven't had a lot of recent goat health care experience, you should probably choose another vet. Your veterinarian should get to know your goats so that if you call them in an emergency, they can spot an issue faster. The good news is, most goat health care issues can be handled without the vet. Keep reading for everything you need to know about goat health care and how to take care of your new goat herd right at home. How do you know when to call a vet, versus handling something yourself? You just have to trust your gut a little. When you first get started with goats, and you don't have much experience, you should probably at least call your vet by phone when you have goat health concerns and your vet can guide you. Also, it's good if you can get to know some experienced goat farmer friends in your area who can help.
Photo Credit: Purdue Extension
If you get comfortable handling some of your goat's health care procedures yourself, you may not need a vet each time.
As you gain more experience, you will have a better feel for determining when you should call a vet, and when you're comfortable handling a goat problem yourself. The information provided here at GoatFarmers.com is not intended to be veterinarian advice. This is simply educational information, to help you understand goat health care issues generally. If you ever feel too uncomfortable or uncertain handling a goat health care issue yourself, the best action is to go with the vet.
Nobody wants their animals to get sick. But, we have to expect the possibility that they’ll become ill at one or more stages in their lives. There are a few common diseases and other goat health care problems that stand out more than others for goats, and it's important for you to know a little bit about these if you own goats. Here's a summary of some of the more common goat health care problems in the United States where we live:
Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is a contagious viral disease that manifests as arthritis. It cannot be cured and can devastate an entire goat herd. It can be spread between adult goats through contact with body fluids like blood and feces. There are multiple types of CAE and the symptoms depend on which type it is:
It is most often spread from mother (doe or "dam") to child (kid) through milk ingestion. It can also be spread from adult to adult through body secretions or feces.
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CAE can cause arthritis which can make it difficult for your goat to get up or walk.
CAE is a serious threat to your goat's health care. It's a disease affecting the goat's immune system, like AIDS in humans. It's difficult to treat, but goats may be given antibiotics and pain care for the bacterial form. Most goat keepers go to great lengths to protect their herd from diseases like this. Never accept a new goat unless it's been tested for diseases. And be sure to test your entire herd each year. Practice good biosecurity as part of your goat health care program. You will want to limit the number of people who are allowed to enter into the area where you raise your goats, especially people who may be coming from another farm and who can unknowingly transmit contaminants on their shoes or clothing. When we hire helpers at our farm, we have them change into special boots that we keep at our farm. Also, be sure to keep your goats' living area as clean as possible. Make sure their food and water is clean and fresh, and not contaminated with feces and other foreign matter. It's important that any new goat you bring to your place be isolated from the rest of your herd for awhile before it is introduced to your herd, so you can observe any symptoms. If you suspect your goat has CAE, call your vet immediately and isolate your goat from the rest of the herd.
This goat disease is caused by a bacteria and is contagious and chronic. It's also sometimes referred to as "abscesses". Symptoms of CL in your goats includes abscesses on a goat's body that sometimes ooz thick, green pus, and swelling of lymph nodes. CL can be spread through physical contact of wounds and pus, through brushes and clippers, and through anything in the barnyard that pus may have touched, such as feed, equipment, fences and structures. For treatment, as part of your own goat health care regimen, first isolate any goats that show symptoms, and have them tested by a vet. If a goat is diagnosed with CL, have your entire herd tested and quarantine any goats that test positive so the disease doesn't spread further. For the infected animals, treatment involves having your vet treat the abscesses, which need to be lanced and flushed with disinfectants. Also, you must be extremely careful because you can easily pass the disease to additional goats if you've simply touched one of the infected goats. Because of the risk, and the seriousness, it's usually recommended that any goat with CL simply be culled (permanently removed) from your herd. The easiest way to deal with CL is to avoid it in the first place. Practice good goat health care and biosecurity like I mentioned previously.
Johne's is a potentially fatal and contagious gastrointestinal disease. It is most often passed on through infected manure and can be spread from adult to baby via water, milk or feed that has been contaminated. A big problem with this disease is that it takes months to develop, and a goat can be shedding the organism through its feces and infecting the rest of your herd before you detect it. It’s hard to detect, and often isn’t discovered until a necropsy is performed after death. Symptoms include chronic weight loss (despite good appetite).
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Johne's disease in your goat will result in chronic weight loss.
Since there is no cure and vaccination is not yet approved, the key to controlling this disease is prevention. Implement a good goat health care strategy. Keep your herd as a “closed” herd, and only buy animals from other herds that have been tested. When buying young goats from other herds, test their dam also. Don’t let your goats contact other livestock that could have Johne’s and don’t borrow animals from others.
Coccidiosis involves a parasitic microscopic protozoa. When you see diarrhea in a young goat around 2 weeks to 6 months old, chances are it's coccidia, which is a common problem in goat health care. Many goat owners refer to it as "cocci" for short. Learn more about coccidiosis HERE. Coccidiosis happens especially when goats are confined where bedding, food and water can easily become contaminated with feces, and when a young goat is weaned from its dam. The stress of weaning tends to bring on coccidiosis because it weakens a goat's normal resistance, which isn't fully developed in young kids yet. Most adult goats already have some coccidia in their intestinal tract and they're usually not a significant goat health care problem when small in numbers. They may be "infected" with it, but it may not be up to the level where they would be considered "diseased". The coccidia eggs (oocytes) can pass from an adult goat in feces and get into contaminated food and water, where younger goats can easily get it and get infected by the coccidia. Again, it's usually not a significant goat health care problem until the coccidia increase in number. That's when you notice symptoms like diarrhea. Symptoms of coccidia can be a decrease in both eating and weight gain. As it gets worse, you will see diarrhea, possibly including mucus and blood. Your goat will become weak and dehydrated. Coccidia can become a serious goat health care problem if you don't catch it immediately and treat it. It can even lead to death in a young goat in as little as 24 hours. Also, even if it's treated successfully, if the coccidia did enough damage to the intestines, it can have permanent effects on a goat such as stunted growth because the goat can no longer absorb food as well. I know this all sounds terrible. However, most goat farmers will often have goats that get coccidia, especially young kids. When it's recognized, and you treat it quickly, your goat will usually be fine. We’ve had more than one goat with coccidia, we treated it and they never had any further problems after that. For prevention, many goat keepers use feeds that are "medicated". That means they contain a "coccidiostat". You can also drench your goats with an oral dose of a medicine called Corid, or add it to their drinking water. If your goats have coccidia, they can be treated with Corid. Certain sulfa drugs like Albon and Sulmet can also be given to prevent other secondary infections from occurring. When treating with Corid, you also need to supplement your goat with Vitamin B because Corid is a Vitamin B inhibitor. Also, Corid treatment is recommended over a 5 day period. But coccidia enter a second stage of development after that, so a second round of treatment is usually needed even after the initial 5 days. Many goat owners have started using Baycox (toltrazuril coccidiocide) as an alternative. It's designed to cover both stages of coccidia development, so you only have to give one dose, rather than two, and Vitamin B supplementing isn't needed. Until you're accustomed to treating coccidia, it's best for you to consult your veterinarian for help if you suspect coccidia in your own goat herd.
Scrapie is a disease that is difficult to diagnose, and it is always fatal. Fortunately, most goat keepers don't experience it because it is fairly rare in goats, it mainly affects sheep, and there has been a nationwide program underway in the U.S. for the eradication of Scrapie which has been pretty effective. The National Scrapie Eradication Program is designed to track animals (mostly sheep) with required numbered ear tags so, when an animal is found to have scrapie, it can be traced back to the other animals it came from. Most goats don't need ear tags unless they have been kept with sheep, used to produce milk, registered or exhibited. Even then, goats don't usually need tags if they have an ID number tattooed inside their ear. If you ever register dairy goats or exhibit them in a goat show, you will find out that ear tattoos are usually required in these cases, so you won't need ear tags. Even if your goats haven't been required to have scrapie ear tags, you'll want to keep an eye on the National Scrapie Eradication Program because the requirements are updated from time-to-time, and you'll want to make sure you're in compliance, especially if you are transporting, registering or exhibiting goats. Scrapie is usually passed to a baby goat from direct contact with the placenta or fetal fluid of an infected dam. A goat with scrapie will show signs like walking strangely, head and neck tremors, loss of coordination and weight loss. One reason it's hard to diagnose is because it develops slowly over one to six months, and has never been seen in goats under 2 years of age. There is no known cure or treatment for scrapie. But your goats will probably never experience it. Just to be safe, you will want to remove any goat afterbirth as soon as possible, and keep areas clean where you do your kidding.
Brucellosis is a disease that is also not common with goats in the U.S., but does occur. Symptoms include abortions and retained placenta in does, and swelling of testicles in bucks. Brucellosis is passed along from infected animals through contact with their placenta, fetus, fluids or vaginal discharge, and it can be found in blood, urine, milk or semen. The organism can survive for several months in water, manure, hay, equipment and clothes. There is no practical, successful treatment for brucellosis. The best prevention within your goat health care program is to keep an eye out for symptoms, isolate infected animals, keep things clean and avoid contact with any of the things known to transmit the disease.
(aka Orf Disease or Contagious Ecthyma) (also known as Scabby Mouth or Contagious Pustular Dermatitis) Sore Mouth is a viral disease which is common in goats. It can be passed between animals through things like milking equipment and bedding. Symptoms are scabby sores on the lips and gums which are thick and painful. A nursing kid can also pass it to the dam, and may cause lesions on her udder and mastitis. In mild cases, you may not need treatment and the condition may go away on its own, with a goat healing up after one to four weeks. In more severe cases, softening ointments may help. If a very young kid gets a severe case, it could result in death.
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A goat with Sore Mouth disease will exhibit thick, painful sores on the lips and gums.
Vaccines are available to prevent sore mouth. However, when you use the vaccine you are actually introducing a little bit of the disease into your herd to give your goats immunity for a year or so. Some goat keepers, as part of their goat health care procedures, have vaccinated their herd prior to taking their goats to shows, to ward off an outbreak of the disease during show season. But the vaccination can cause a few small scabs, so it's usually advisable to administer the vaccine about 6 weeks prior to a show so the scabs have time to heal beforehand. As a matter of fact, at the time of writing this article, I learned that a well-known goat breeder at the national show recently had a sore mouth outbreak in their herd which forced them to withdraw a prize-winning goat from auction, costing them thousands of dollars. So, there's one example where vaccination against sore mouth probably would have prevented a lot of trouble.
Listeriosis is a brain-stem disease. It is caused by a bacteria known as Listeria Monocytogenes. The bacteria is usually found in water, soil, silage, feces and a goat's digestive system. It is most commonly passed along by feeding a goat moldy hay. The bacteria can also be introduced to your goat herd by a goat that is a carrier of the bacteria without any symptoms. The bacteria enters another goat through their mouth. It is usually not passed directly from another goat. Instead, it is usually picked up from the environment. Listeriosis is zoonotic, which means it can be transmitted to humans, too. So be very careful handling goats with this disease. Listeriosis symptoms are triggered usually when a goat is stressed. It can be brought on by feeding hay, sudden changes in food, parasites, weather changes and pregnancy. There are two types of Listeriosis. One causes abortions and the other causes encephalitis. Listeriosis has similar symptoms to goat polio, so those two diseases are often confused, which can lead a veterinarian to prescribe wrong treatments. The type of Listeriosis that causes encephalitis is the most common form. It causes inflammation of the nerves in the goat's brain stem. Symptoms can include the head pulled to one side and going in only one direction. This is why Listeriosis is also referred to as "Circling Disease". Other symptoms include loss of appetite, depression, fever, slack jaw, blindness, paralysis of the face and drooling. Treatment must be given immediately, and it can take many weeks in some cases depending on how severe it is. A treatment that has proven effective in the past has been to use high doses of procaine penicillin along with Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) injections. The goat should also be given electrolytes and protein by stomach tube until the goat can eat on its own again. With proper treatment, goats have been known to go blind and then fully recover later after the treatment.
Toxoplasma (Toxoplasma Gondii) is a single-cell protozoan that can infect goats, even though it is more common in sheep. Cats carry this organism, and then your goats can pick it up by eating grass or other foods contaminated with cat feces. Cats get the organism by eating small rodents, uncooked meat or placentas. The infection invades the small intestine of your goat and then passes through the blood to the reproductive system. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis include abortion, mummification, stillbirth and weak kids. This disease can also be transmitted to humans, and is a special risk to pregnant women. Be sure, as part of your goat health care routine, to use gloves when handling any infected goat or material. There is no official, effective treatment at this time. There is a vaccination available to avoid this disease. The other best way to prevent Toxoplasmosis in your goats is to practice good sanitation and management practices in your goat health care. Avoid exposure of your goats to cat feces. Keep goat feed stored in a safe place where it can't be contaminated. Don't allow strange cats on your property. Dispose of fetuses and placentas safely where they can't be eaten by a cat. Don't feed your cats unpasteurized milk or uncooked meat.
Pinkeye is the inflammation of the eyelid and is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It is highly contagious and outbreaks often occur when new goats are introduced into the herd.
You will recognize pinkeye in your goat by the inflammation of the eyelid.
Some people claim that most cases will resolve naturally, and in severe cases you will need to apply treatment. However, untreated pinkeye can be serious and can lead to blindness and death. Therefore, it is best to go ahead and treat it. The most common treatment for pinkeye is to apply terramycin antibiotic ointment to the eye 2 to 4 times per day. You’ll find a great detailed description of pinkeye treatment HERE.
Urinary Calculi is a serious, and sometimes deadly, urinary tract blockage by “stones” of calcium that prevents urination and breeding in male goats and can cause the bladder to burst. It rarely takes form in female goats because their urethra is short and straight, whereas in a male goat it is long and winding. Urinary Calculi is most often a result of improper feeding involving too much grain, especially grain that doesn’t have a proper balance between calcium and phosphorus. If a goat is not given enough water to drink, that can add to the problem. Having too much phosphorous is the problem here. Excessive phosphorous can cause calcium deposits to form a blockage. Wethers (male goats that have been castrated) are especially prone to getting Urinary Calculi. When a goat is castrated, this stops the process of testosterone causing the urethra to grow larger. If the wether was castrated at too young of an age, the urethra may not have been allowed to grow large enough so it is more susceptible to blockage. Symptoms of Urinary Calculi are signs of difficulty with urinating, and can be easily mistaken for constipation or bloat. Your goat will appear to hunch-up and strain to urinate. He may also seem restless, anxious and twitching his tail more than usual. This is a serious life-threatening condition and needs to be treated immediately when it’s detected as part of your regular goat health care routine. If it’s not treated, then within a day or two the goat’s bladder can burst which results in a fast, painful death. To treat UC, do not give the goat more water. This will just make things worse, as the water will build up quicker in the bladder due to the blockage. Instead, Banamine can be given for pain and water build-up can be relieved with catheterization to let water out of the bladder. To do this, the goat’s pizzle will need to be cut off first. This is a curly appendage on the end of the penis. Removing this does not affect breeding ability. This procedure should be left to a veterinarian to do, or an experienced goat breeder who has a lot of skill in goat health care. If catheterization doesn’t work, surgery may be necessary, and doesn’t guarantee that the goat can be saved. You can take steps in your goat health care to prevent UC before it occurs. Make sure your goat’s diet has a proper calcium-to-phosphorous ratio, which should be about 2-½ parts calcium to 1 part phosphorous. This may take some research because you will need to determine the composition of your feed, hay, water and minerals that your goats eat to figure out the actual calcium-to-phosphorous ratio they are receiving. Also, make sure your goats are always drinking enough water. You can provide salt to make them thirstier to stimulate their drinking. Making sure they get plenty of exercise can also help avoid UC. You can use ammonium chloride to help prevent UC. A diluted form of this can be given to a goat orally over time if the goat already has UC. But it burns the throat, so it should be administered with a feeding tube directly to the stomach. If your goats don’t have UC yet, you can provide ammonium chloride gradually in small amounts as a preventative. Some goat feeds can be purchased that include ammonium chloride. Your best bet is to make sure your goats receive a healthy diet that is high in roughage and low in grains, especially for your male goats. And make sure they have access to plenty of clean, fresh drinking water.
Mastitis is the inflammation of the mammary gland (udder) and occurs most often in dairy goats. It affects the milk they produce and can be caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi.. Sometimes it is brought on by poor hygienic practices, high stress environments or injury. So, cleanliness in your goat health care plan is important. Mastitis can be two types - either systemic or chronic. Symptoms can include high fever and elevated pulse, with the systemic type. Symptoms often include a decrease in milk production, or changes in the taste, smell, color or texture of milk, which can become yellowish and watery. Also, the udder can become hard, reddish, swollen, hot and tender to the touch. Affected goats should be isolated to avoid passing problems to other goats, and give antibiotics if necessary. You can have your vet test the doe’s milk and/or blood to determine exactly what type of bacteria or virus may be involved, which can help determine appropriate medications to use.
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A red swollen udder that is tender to the touch is a sure sign of mastitis.
The best treatment sometimes is to help the goat’s udder dry up, which takes some time. This involves, first of all, reducing the amount of grain and alfalfa in the doe’s diet so milk production will decrease. Gently milk the doe so you can relieve pressure in her udder. Throughout the process, you can use some soothing cream for udders like Bag Balm. Use teat dip with antiseptic to kill any bacteria that may be on the teats. To prevent mastitis, keep the areas clean where you milk and keep your goats, avoid stress on your goats and keep them as disease-free as possible. Wash your goat’s udders often with clean water, wash your hands before and after milking, use sprays and teat dips before milking and keep all of your milking equipment clean.
Bloat is what happens when your goat cannot burp. The rumen is an organ inside your goat, and when something blocks the escape of gas from the rumen it causes the organ to expand. If this happens, you’ll notice a large bulge on your goat’s left side.
A simple way to describe bloat is that it's when your goat gets too much gas trapped in their rumen (stomach). For people, a little bit of trapped gas is usually a momentary discomfort. But for goats and their more complex digestive systems, gas can be seriously life-threatening. If your goat ever appears to have bloat, take it seriously and act quickly. Bloat is caused primarily by either an obstruction in your goat’s esophagus, or consumption of inappropriate food. There are two types of bloat that can develop from a bad diet: "frothy bloat" and "dry bloat" (free gas bloat).
Frothy bloat is far more dangerous and means that foam has developed inside of the rumen with tiny bubbles that the goat cannot burp up. The little bubbles in the foam contain the gas and keep it from escaping.
Dry or "free" bloat is caused by indigestion, causing gas to form in pockets and stay trapped in the upper portion of the rumen. There’s not much we can do to prevent our goats from getting something stuck in their throats, but we can work hard to make sure their diet stays regulated.
The best prevention is to steadily regulate their food consumption. You should never change your goats diet too quickly. Gradual changes give your goat’s gut time to adjust to any new “bad” microbes that may shift the rumens’ pH levels. Also, try to keep them away from food they are not supposed to have or from overeating. For example, if your goat gets into a source of grain and overeats, the rumen microbes struggle to deal with the amount of unfamiliar soluble carbohydrates and high starch levels now in its system. The “bad” microbes increase in number and produce foam, which prevents the escape of gas and blocks your goat from burping. All of this can be avoided by monitoring what, and how often, your goats eat, which is an important part of a goat health care program anyway.
If your goat does get bloat, you’ll recognize the large bulge on your goat’s left side. Your goat may also show signs of pain like grinding its teeth, striking its legs or depression. If this happen, isolate your goat from the herd right away. Don’t feed it any water because that will add to the fermentation of the grain in the gut and cause it to further expand. You need to get the gas out of rumen immediately. There are several oral medications that help to break down the froth into a solid pocket of gas that the goat can burp out. Drenching with oils is another option which should help your goat release the gas. Once the gas is relieved, call your vet right away. In more serious cases, bloat can stop the lungs and heart from working which could be fatal for your goat. Your vet may recommend stomach tubing to manually release the gas from the rumen. If these measures fail, you may need to manually release the gas or foam by puncturing the rumen externally.
There are two types of Enterotoxemia in goats - type C and type D. This disease is part of a group of diseases called Clostridial diseases which also includes Tetanus (lockjaw). Type C (bloody scours) appears in two forms. One is "Struck" (which occurs in adult goats and is hard to detect until death), and the other is Enterotoxic Hemorrhagic Enteritis (attacks the small intestine of a newborn goat in the first few days of life, resulting in bloody diarrhea and sometimes death). Type D (aka Pulpy Kidney Disease or Overeating Disease) is related to indigestion and usually caused by getting too much milk (such as when a twin dies, leaving only one kid nursing). It occurs mostly in sheep, but can occur in goats. Enterotoxemia in goats is caused by bacteria known as Clostridium Perfringens. These bacteria occur normally in the digestive tract of a healthy goat. But, under certain circumstances, the bacteria reproduce at a greater-than-normal rate, which can create high levels of toxins. This occurs most often in younger goats, and can be sudden and deadly since they usually haven't built up a resistance yet. Adult goats have a greater resistance due to being exposed to the bacteria for longer. As mentioned above, there is more than one form of Enterotoxemia, which each have different symptoms. With the peracute form, a young kid can show convulsions or excitement, and then suddenly be dead within 12 hours. With the neurological type, a kid may quit eating, and exhibit abdominal pain along with profuse, bloody, watery diarrhea. Sudden death can occur in minutes. When a goat dies, and you suspect this disease, be sure to have a necropsy examination done (autopsy) to have it diagnosed so you can make sure it's not something else, and so you can adjust your goat health care management to prevent the disease in other goats. Enterotoxemia can be caused by eating too much milk or grain, or when the goat has been sick with something else that interferes with their natural immunities. Having a heavy load of gastrointestinal parasites can also contribute to this disease. This disease is so common that it is standard goat health care practice to vaccinate goats as a preventive measure before it occurs. A vaccination is usually given which is called a CDT or CD&T vaccine, because it protects against Clostridium Perfringens C & D, as well as Tetanus. You normally will want to vaccinate a pregnant doe about 30 days prior to giving birth to pass the protection to the kid before it starts eating. The kid should then be vaccinated when 5 or 6 weeks old, and given a booster 3 or 4 weeks later. Treatment of Enterotoxemia, once a goat has it, should include the following:
Foot rot in goats is a foot infection caused by bacteria that live in soil and carried onto your farm via shoe soles or the feet of other infected animals. The foot or feet will become very pink and can be painful for your goat to walk on.
Photo Credit: Purdue University
Foot rot can cause pain in walking and can eventually lead to the hoof wall detaching from the foot if not treated.
If foot rot is left untreated, the hoof wall can loosen or entirely detach from the foot. The best treatment as part of your goat health care is the application of antibiotics, accompanied by hoof trimming to remove infected parts. Affected animals should be quarantined and may show improvement within a month.
This is one of the most important goat health care skills you will learn as a goat owner. You should learn this right away and practice it early and often. If you don’t, you’re potentially facing foot rot and other leg issues that could have been otherwise avoided.
You’ll need gloves, a set of sharp-edged shears or a hoof knife, and a helper, or milk stand, to restrain your goat. Like any goat health care procedure, you don’t want any dirt or debris in your work area, so thoroughly clean the hoof. Use the shears to remove any excess growth from the walls of the foot. Take the shears or hoof knife and trim the heel, sole and walls to form a flat surface. Your goat stands comfortably at about a 45 degree angle, so aim for that angle when trimming. If you reach a pinkish color while trimming, stop trimming because you’ve reached the quick, which is a sensitive area and may hurt your goat. If you accidentally trim too close and it starts bleeding, don't panic. Just make sure you have some Blood Stop Powder handy nearby to stop the bleeding. That’s a quick run-down on hoof trimming. It’s a simple goat health care procedure that doesn’t take too long and is worth the effort. It’s an effective way to avoid the problems of hoof rot.
Video Credit: Oklahoma State University
Another type of preventive goat health care you will want to provide for your goats is regular testing to see if they have excessive parasites, and to determine what type and how many they have, so you can determine the best treatment. Nobody wants a parasite in their herd. Let’s talk about the different types and how to treat them
Parasites are quite common in goats and vary based on environment. They can be divided into two categories: internal (organs) and external (skin).
Because the internal parasites have a preference of organ type, there are many variations among flatworms, tapeworms and roundworms; the most common being stomach and lung worms. Because these parasites are quite common and fatal, it’s important to do fecal testing (of poop) often.
When goat farmers talk about worms, you'll hear them refer to a goat's "worm load". It's important to know that almost every healthy goat is going to have a certain level of worms. Your goal should not be to get rid of ALL worms in your goat. The goal of your goat health care is to help your goat maintain a healthy "worm load", which is the level of worms in their body.
Goat owners typically use something called a Famacha test to watch for signs of parasite problems in their goats. Here's how it works. Some common parasites eat the goat's blood. As those parasites get worse, your goat can gradually become anemic due to the loss of blood. One way you can recognize when this is happening is when you look at the membrane inside your goat's eyelid. In a healthy goat, the membrane there should be bright red or pink due to the healthy blood flow. But if your goat is anemic, the membrane will begin to appear pale and almost white. When this happens, it's a sign that your goat is anemic and has probably developed a parasite problem that needs to be treated. This test won't detect all parasites because some of them don't eat blood. But for the common parasites that DO eat blood, this is a good way to watch out for them. Most goat owners use this test a lot because it's so easy to do.
Credit: Purdue Extension
You need to use a Famacha eye color chart often to test the eyelid color of your goats to determine if they are anemic and may have an excessive worm load that needs to be treated.
To do a Famacha test on your goats, you need to order a Famacha card. It's a card that has different levels of colors that you can hold next to your goat's eyelid to compare. Each color has a Famacha score associated with it. This Famacha score card helps you rate the level of anemia in your goat. It's also referred to as a Famacha anemia guide. Famacha is a brand name which is trade-marked and copyrighted. So you will need to order one of these cards from the official source. Just go to the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control and look for the email address where you can request information for ordering Famacha cards.
One of the best ways to test your goats for parasites is by doing a fecal egg count. This basically involves taking a poop sample from your goat and looking at it under a microscope to see they type and number of parasite eggs you see in it. This is an important part of your goat health care because this will help you determine the type of treatment needed and how much (depending on the number of eggs you see).
Credit: Barksdale AFB
You can easily learn how to do a fecal egg count yourself with your own microscope, which saves the cost and wait time of having to do it through your vet's lab.
You can do a fecal egg count yourself or have it done through your vet. As a goat owner you'll want to do fecal testing on a regular basis so you'll save a ton of money and time if you learn to do this yourself. It’s pretty easy to get a DIY kit for this so we’d recommend gathering the supplies and performing the test at home. You’ll need a microscope, test tubes, fecal floating solution, slides and a few other small tools to complete your kit.
Set up two jars. Fill one with the floating solution and cover the other with a cheesecloth. Use a rubber band to secure it. Collect your goat's poop pellets and place them in the jar with the solution. Use a spoon or a similar tool to smash up the pellets. Once mixed, strain the solution through the cheesecloth and into the second jar. Remove the cloth and use the eyedropper to strain the solution, which you’ll then place into your test tube. When finished, place a cover slip over the tube and wait ten minutes. Now that any potential eggs have risen up, gently remove the slip and put it onto the slide. Place the slide under the microscope and see what you find out. You shouldn’t have a problem finding resources on the internet to help you analyze your results. Pro tip - you’ll always find some eggs in the sample, but knowing the number of eggs per sample gram is the key factor in getting an accurate reading. If you decide you don’t want to self test, you can take a poop sample to the vet and they’ll run the tests for you. You can also call your vet to discuss the results of your own tests and create a treatment plan.
If you do find parasites in your goat’s stool, it’s an important part of your goat health care strategy to move forward with a treatment plan right away. Every plan involves practical deworming, which varies based on the specific problems you pinpoint in your herd. You’ll want to take a few more random fecal samples and bring them to the vet for further analysis. The physical appearance of the feces is also a good indicator of parasite type. The stool may appear normal, clumpy or like diarrhea. If a young goat is having diarrhea, it’s typically a sign of coccidia, which is a serious infection involving a one-cell protozoa that lives and grows within the cell lining of the gastrointestinal tract of the host. If an older goat is having diarrhea, it’s most likely a non-blood sucking intestinal worm. Your vet will help you locate the source of the issue and create a plan of attack.
Not all parasites are created equal. It was once a common part of any goat health care program to use a dewormer on a regular basis as a preventative care. However, over time the parasites developed a resistance to the medications, rendering them nearly ineffective in most parts of the country. Today, it’s best goat health care practice to only use dewormers if it’s absolutely necessary. Even then there’s still no guarantee they will work. This is why fecal testing is so important. Determining the exact parasites you're dealing with tells you the type of treatment needed. Certain dewormers will kill some parasites but not others. If you guess, you may end up wasting your time and making things worse.
Dewormers should only be given to your goat as needed and in the exact type and amount for the particular parasite problem your goat has, in order to avoid a build-up over time of resistant parasites.
You'll want to do your fecal testing, and then follow-up with the proper type and amount of dewormer based on the test. We will cover more about this in other goat health care articles here at GoatFarmers.com so stay tuned. Obviously, fecal testing and dewormers can get kind of involved and more "reactive" than "proactive". It's best if you can proactively help your goats avoid parasites as much as possible. Therefore, alternative alternative goat care is key for keeping our goats healthy and parasite-free
Copper bolus is a supplement that you should feed to your herd. Why, you ask? Because copper is an essential part of enzyme production, which helps keep their overall systems in balance. More importantly for this discussion, a major benefit of copper bolus is its ability to treat internal parasites and worms! Copper bolus comes in pill form and can be easily purchased online. In tandem with copper bolus treatment, the latest recommendations are to combine and administer two or three classes of deworming medications simultaneously as part of your goat health care procedures. This reduces the chances that the parasites will develop a resistance to the strain since they are being mixed together. Drenching is the process in which we administer these medications, via a drenching gun, which is a syringe-like tool for the purpose of medicating your goats orally. When drenching, make sure to keep the deworming medications in separate syringes to avoid mixing, but give them to your goat one after the other. The best alternative goat health care is preventative care. Goats often ingest parasites through larvae that have hatched in goat droppings. These larvae live on blades of grass close to the ground, and our goats naturally prefer to reach up, rather than down, to eat. Therefore, set up your pasture in more wooded areas, for example, to keep the goats browsing for food above them rather than below. Use overhead bins rather than feeding hay on the ground. Rotate your pasture often to ensure they’re staying in a fresh and clean environment where parasites have had less time to hatch and grow.
External parasites are those that live on the outside of your goats, like on the skin or in the nostrils. These can include parasites like ticks, lice, nose bot fly, keds, fly maggots, mites and fleas. External parasites can suck on the blood of a goat or feed on its skin. This can result in symptoms in your goat like a dull coat, excessive scratching, raw skin, hair loss and possible anemia. Parasites tend to thrive more in the cooler months. When treating external parasites in goats you must be extremely careful. You will typically need to use insecticides on parasites like lice. But very few insecticides are registered for use on goats. This is because care must be taken to make sure that excessive amounts of pesticide don't get into the meat and milk of goats which are going to be consumed by people later. If you produce meat or milk from your goats, you will need to make sure any pesticides detected in those products don't exceed legally required limits. Otherwise, you need to make sure those products are not distributed for consumption. When you treat with pesticides, keep in mind that you may spray your goat and kill the parasites, but the pesticide may not kill the parasite eggs. Those eggs may hatch after a couple of weeks. This means that you will need to repeat the insecticide treatment again after a couple of weeks in your goat health care routine. When using pesticides, be sure to store them carefully away from children or animals. Follow all directions carefully and dispose of them safely. Parasites will always come, but with careful planning and observation as part of your goat health care program, you can keep the devastation to a low. There are lots of other more rare illnesses goats can get, but that list helps you understand a little bit about some of the more common goat health problems, as well as a few that are not-so-common. Now let's move from talking about goat health care problems, to learning some things you can do to prevent them.
Lots of goat health care problems can be caused by mineral deficiencies. When you own goats, you will want to do some research to learn about specific mineral deficiencies in the geographic location where you live. This includes mineral deficiencies in your soil, water and plants. When you know the minerals that are in short supply in your area, then you can adjust your goat's diet to provide extra supplements of the minerals that may be in short supply where you live. This is not just a good idea. Providing proper minerals as part of your goat health care can be a life-or-death matter. Some of the most important minerals to focus on with goats are copper, zinc, selenium and manganese.
There are certain telltale signs when your goat is lacking in minerals.
Goats with a selenium deficiency can contract White Muscle Disease (aka Nutritional Muscular Dystrophy). This can cause muscle weakness and difficulty controlling muscles. When you see a newborn with unusually weak rear legs, especially after other siblings are walking just fine, this is often the culprit. Selenium deficiency can also cause abortions, stillbirths, retained placenta and inability to conceive. In fact, we had a doe give birth not long ago on our farm, and we didn't know she had a selenium deficiency. She had a difficult birth because one of the kids in her was stillborn. Also, she had trouble with a retained placenta after the birth, which can lead to some significant problems. Fortunately, we recognized the problem and treated her right away, so everything turned out fine. To treat selenium deficiency, look for feeds that have selenium added. Also, many goat farmers give BoSe injections to adult and newborn goats as part of their regular goat health care. You can also supplement your goat's selenium with selenium gel, ReplaminPlus and loose selenium supplements. Just pay careful attention and study the selenium in your area, because it's possible to provide too much selenium which can be toxic.
Copper deficiency can be caused by a lack of copper in a goat's diet, but can also be caused by a goat eating other minerals that counter-act the copper, such as sulfur, iron and calcium. You will want to watch for the presence of sulfur or iron in your well water, as this can often cause a copper deficiency. Untreated copper deficiency can cause fertility problems, increased parasite problems and back, leg and spinal problems that can eventually lead to death. Symptoms of copper deficiency include the goat's coat turning a rusty red color, if the goat was solid black, or can turn other colors for different colors of goats. Also, the goat may start losing hair on its face and get a condition known as "fish tail" (reduced hair on the tip of the tail). A goat with copper deficiency may also be underweight due to having trouble fighting off parasites. Most people prefer to treat copper deficiency in their goats with "copper boluses" which are also known as copper oxide wire particles (COWP). These are usually administered to your goat with a tool called a bolus gun. Other mineral deficiencies which can cause problems include zinc, iodine, manganese, salt, sulfur and potassium. Be sure you study each of these and make sure your goats are getting a good balance of all minerals as part of your goat health care program. If your goat seems to be deficient in any minerals, be careful that you understand how to administer them because some mineral s react with each other in ways that could make your goat's deficiencies worse.
Floppy Goat Syndrome is a condition where a baby goat stops standing up and drinking milk, and can suddenly die after a day or so. But treatment is easy and usually successful if caught in time.
A goat with Floppy Kid Syndrome will appear to have been healthy from birth, but then suddenly can't stand up, suck or drink milk from its mother. If no treatment is given, the kid may go into a coma and could die within 1 or 2 days. There are many other conditions that look like Floppy Kid Syndrome, but really aren't. FKS is very specific and usually only occurs when a kid is between 3 days and 2 weeks old. In one or more rare cases it's been seen in a kid up to a month old. But if the kid with issues is not between 3 days and 2 weeks old, then those issues are probably something else, not FKS. In that case, treating for FKS may do nothing.
It is thought that Floppy Kid syndrome may be caused by drinking too much milk. It is not contagious.
Treatment of FKS is simple. Give the kid one-half to one teaspoon of baking soda, one time. That's it. However, to be safe, you may also want to stop any bottle feeding for about 24 hours since the condition is due to drinking too much milk. To give the baking soda, mix in a little water so the baking soda can be given with a syringe. A kid with FKS can often still swallow, even though they can't suck. If you can't get the kid to take the baking soda, you you will want to see your vet and have the vet give sodium bicarbonate intravenously. If it isn't resolved right away, then the condition is probably not FKS and may be something else.
One of the best preventive strategies you can use to avoid goat health care problems in your goats is to simply examine them on a regular basis. The easiest thing to do is to observe them carefully as you’re going about your daily routine of feeding and handling your goats. This is important to do on a daily basis because you will get to learn your goat’s usual behaviors. This will allow you to recognize when behaviors change and something doesn’t seem right. Diseases come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes are quite difficult to recognize. Keep an eye on your herd's behaviors and look for common symptoms like fatigue, difficulty standing, favoring certain limbs, mucus discharge and lack of hunger.
Photo Credit: extension.org
By physically examining your goats on a daily basis, you can notice and treat many health care issues before they become more serious.
If you notice that something doesn’t seem quite right with your goats, one of the first things you should do is to take their temperature. Regardless of what’s wrong, this simple step can help you quickly eliminate some possibilities and help you zero-in on others. Your goat health care should include taking temps of your herd on a regular basis.
Be sure to take your goat’s temperature every-so-often, especially if you notice something "just doesn't seem right". A goat's body temperature can fluctuate depending on their surroundings, but a reading in a range of about 101.5 to 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit is considered normal, and that’s what you want to see on your thermometer reading. Normal temperatures can vary, depending on the environment, such as season, time of day, etc. As part of your regular goat health care, it is suggested that you measure and record the temperature of your own goats several times while you know they are well. Take their temps at different times of the day and different seasons. You will soon have a good feel for what the "normal" temps are for your own herd. If a goat is acting funny, and you test their temperature and it's one or more degrees outside of the normal range, then you know there is probably some issue. If the temperature is above normal, there may be an infection. Below normal, and your goat may have a critical illness or was simply out in the severe cold too long. Our rule of thumb is, if you suspect any issues with your goats, take their temperature before you do anything else. The temperature reading can help you zero-in more quickly on what might be wrong with your goat. If your goat's temperature is too low, this is SERIOUS! You need to get this fixed before anything else. A low temp can often happen in the cold of Winter, especially with new kids, and goats that are old or sick. For most other goats, they have the ability to keep their body temperature regulated, even in some pretty extreme temperatures (as long as they have a shed or barn where they can huddle up together in some hay and stay warm). It's best not to use a heater around goats, and those can often be dangerous anyway, as a fire hazard. Sometimes goat health care is about what NOT to do. If your goat's temperature is loo low, do NOT feed them until you can get the temperature back up to normal. A goat's digestive system will not work properly while their body temp is low, and continuing to put food into their system while it's low will cause even more problems. The quickest way to raise a goat's body temperature is to wrap their body in plastic, and lower the goat's body into a bathtub of water at about 104 degrees (keep their head out so they can breathe, of course). Keep adding more hot water as the water cools, so the tub stays at 104 degrees. Keep testing with a thermometer until the goat's body temperature is back up in the normal range. If this bathtub method isn't available, the next best option is to create a tent around the goat using a blanket, bath towels, etc. Some people do this in their laundry room or bathroom. Then, use a hair dryer to heat up the air inside the tent and warm-up the goat. This won't be as fast as the bathtub method, but is still a good option. Test with a thermometer and keep going until you have the goat's temp up to normal. As part of a good goat health care program, taking temps is a skill you definitely need to practice and be ready to use on a regular basis.
Vaccinations are key for preventative goat health care. While vaccines can’t guarantee that your goats will never acquire diseases, it does ensure a higher chance of survival if they contract an illness. The most common vaccinations needed for your goat are the following:
Clostridium Perfringens Types C and D and Tetanus are vaccinations that prevent tetanus and bacterial diseases in your goats.
If rabies is found a lot in your area, you may want to vaccinate your goats for this. Otherwise, most people don't give a rabies vaccine to their goats on a regular basis.
Goats have trouble maintaining their body heat, especially if it’s wet or windy. This means they may easily contract pneumonia, so a vaccine is recommended.
Chlamydia is the most frequent cause of abortion in goats. You should vaccinate your goats against this so that they have less chances of issues during pregnancy.
Have no fear, it’s relatively easy to give your goats vaccinations at home. They all come in injection form making them easy to administer. Learning how to do your own injections can help reduce the cost and time involved in your goat health care. There are two types of injections you normally use with goat medicines: subcutaneous (SQ) which goes under the skin and intramuscular (IM) which goes into the muscle. You won't normally eintravenous (IV) injections. The manufacturer's instructions, which you should read and follow, will tell you which injection type your vaccine requires.
Giving injections to your goats is something you can easily learn to do yourself with a little coaching and practice.
Bring your goat away from the herd and have a partner hold it still. Grab your sterilized needle and syringe (safety first!). For an SQ (sub cutaneous), or under-the-skin vaccination, you’ll need to pinch the skin into a tent-like formation and insert the needle just under the skin. For an intramuscular (IM) vaccination, insert the need into a pre-selected muscle and give the injection. Make sure to rub the muscle area to distribute the injection. Discard the needle and syringe and thank yourself for doing some good preventative health care. Injections are also sometimes needed to give a goat antibiotics in case of infections.
It’s good goat health care practice to run blood tests for your goats annually to make sure they are free of various diseases, and you can draw the blood yourself right at home, and then have it tested by a lab. Blood testing is something almost all goat raisers do annually. In fact, if you ever have any dealings with other goat farms, such as buying or selling goats, you will always be asked if you have had your herd tested. With a quick google search, you’ll be able to gather supplies and prep for the test. Then, you'll be ready to do blood testing on a regular basis as part of your own goat health care program.
Safety first! To draw blood from your goat start with a sterilized needle straight out of the package. Never re-use needles or syringes when blood testing. Next, locate your goat's jugular vein which is on the left side of its neck. If you can’t find it, shave the area to make it easier to see. Mark the entrance point with a marker and then insert the needle. You want to press it up into the vein at an angle almost parallel to the vein itself. Pull back slowly on the plunger until you see the syringe filling with blood. Stop when it reaches 3 cc’s full. Remove the needle and place pressure on your goat’s neck for 30 seconds. Finally, transfer the blood from the plunger into the test tube that came with the supplies you ordered and the procedure is over. Easy as 1-2-3! If it's a little awkward at first, don't give up. It will become easier over time with practice. It will be worth it in the long run because you'll save a ton of time and money otherwise having to go to a vet's office to get it done.
By now you probably realize how critical it is to keep up with your goat's health care, including disease testing, vaccinations, symptoms, treatments and other vital health information. For a first-time goat owner, it can be overwhelming. The solution is to get a good, comprehensive goat health record form which serves as a checklist to remind you of the things you need to do and which gives you a place where you can record everything when it happens. Then you can relax, knowing that you haven't forgotten anything and you have all of the important information handy whenever you need to refer back to it. To help you get started, check out our free downloadable and printable Goat Health Record Form which you can use right now.
We know that proper feeding helps to avoid things like bloat and keep our goats healthy. But, what exactly are their food preferences? Goats are well known for their ability to pasture on a variety of landscapes, from green grass to wooded areas. They’re grazers, but should not eat a diet of entirely grass. Hay is your goat's main source of nutrients, besides their natural grazing area. Goats need to eat at least 2-4 pounds of hay per day. They also require additional roughage for their rumen to function properly. You can feed them alfalfa twice a day to ensure they are getting enough nutrients. Grain feed is also good for adding proteins, minerals and vitamins to your goats diet. Be careful not to overfeed your goats grain as it can make them fat or cause illness like bloat. You may also choose to give your goats kitchen scraps or compost. This is fine as long as you stick to healthier options like vegetables. Be sure to avoid giving them egg shells. You may also choose to feed your goats minerals. These should be administered in loose form and not as part of a block that contains combinations of them. Mineral supplements are a normal part of any good goat health care regimen.
For more information on feeding your goats, check out our free, comprehensive guide,
Credit: Mrs Brown, Pixaba
It's critical to understand the nutritional needs of baby goat kids when bottle feeding and weaning to solid food.
Good goat health care also means you need to keep living areas clean and dry. Goats do not do well, and parasites get worse, when a goat's living area stays wet. Goats seem to know this naturally because they normally hate rain or getting wet. If you want to learn about inexpensive shelters for your goats, check out our guide, "25 Easy Goat Shelters and Sheds Using DIY Pallets". It’s important to provide your goats with plenty of housing to stay dry. Each goat should have at least 13 square feet of space to move around in. They’re also social animals, so pen them next to each other or together. You’ll also need a secure, well fenced yard which should be 3 to 4 times larger than the pens. Goats are escape artists, so make sure your fence is durable and tall. Avoiding humidity in your goats pens and grazing areas will also help to reduce parasite infections.
If you follow a few general guidelines and safety procedures, your goats will have a much better chance of staying healthy and happy.
As part of your regular goat health care procedures, always isolate any new animals before introducing them to the herd. You’ll want to ensure they aren’t carrying any contagious parasites or diseases that can infiltrate and cause serious damage to your goats. If an animal becomes sick, isolate them right away. The overall health of the herd can be easily influenced by a lone sick goat, so take great care in ensuring all of your goats are healthy before allowing them to roam together freely. Always disinfect needles, syringes or any tools before using them for an invasive procedure. Of course, always wash your hands between working on different animals. Change your clothes and shoes when going from one farm or pen to another in case you’ve touched or stepped in something that could be easily transmitted. Restrict visitor access and handling of your goats, especially sick goats.
Credit: Robin Stott, geograph.org
When you raise goats, you need to restrict visitor access to your goat area to protect against diseases that can enter on the shoes and clothing of visitors.
Properly dispose of hazardous material. These basic guidelines could save a life, a lot of time and money. Following them is the key to responsible goat care.
It’s good practice to have standard antibiotics, electrolytes and probiotics on hand in case of small emergencies. Antibiotics can help to clear up small infections. Electrolytes are great for helping a dehydrated goat become hydrated quickly. They also promote the rapid absorption of nutrients and energy. Probiotics give your goats extra vitamins and minerals and act as beneficial bacteria.
Disbudding is the term used for removing your young goats tiny horn buds on their head before their horns start to grow. It prevents the horns from growing. Even though the horns haven't grown yet, and you aren't removing any horns, some people still refer to this also as "dehorning".
There are two sides to every argument, and that’s certainly true of disbudding or dehorning your goats. Some people feel it’s a cruel and painful procedure, while others state it’s a necessary act of preventative care. For example, goats can potentially get their horns stuck in fences, injure or kill other goats with them, and injure you. Ultimately, it’s up to you and which situation best suits your lifestyle and beliefs, as well as your goat health care needs. If you do decide to disbud, you can do it yourself right at home.
You’ll want to disbud at as early an age as possible to avoid pain and growth potential. The best time is anywhere from 4-10 days old in a newborn. You’ll need a goat disbudding iron, box, gloves, a sharp knife, healing salve and your trusty helper. Don't wait too long to disbud. Once horns start growing it will be too late, and removing horns after they're growing is much more difficult and harder on the goat. For disbudding, first, you’ll trim the hair around their buds to give you a better sight line. After preheating your iron for 10 minutes, place your goat into a disbudding box and have your helper hold them steady. Press the iron down onto the bud to burn a copper ring around the base of the bud. We usually apply an ice bag right after this to avoid the goat’s head from getting over-heated. Now, use the knife to cut off the leftover bud at the base after it has been burned. Once off, use the side of the iron to burn the base of the bud to cauterize the wound. Once complete, give your baby love and comfort and get them back with their mother right away. This was a painful, albeit necessary, procedure that they will quickly recover from. The next day, put some healing salve on the wound. There may be some oozing and blood, but this is normal and won’t last long.
Polled goats are goats genetically born without horns. How lucky for everybody involved. If you don’t want to deal with the stress of disbudding, you can pursue breeding or buying polled goats instead. Polled goats are usually considered more valuable and can be sold for more because they don't require disbudding and don't have other issues that come with having horns. There has been a history of hermaphroditism showing in polled goats, but it’s rare and not a reason to shy away from this path, should you choose it.
Neutering is a castration procedure that you may need to perform on your goats as part of your regular goat health care, both for safety reasons and good herd management. In your herd, you really only need one buck to impregnate several does. You should select your highest quality male goat to be the breeder and castrate the rest. Bucks can become quite aggressive and hard to handle as they age, especially during breeding season. They also stink when they haven’t been neutered.. Neutering them before this happens is smart and will save you some agony.
The best time to neuter your goat is between 8-12 weeks old. Castrating too early can predispose your goat to urinary stones, and too late can lead to some unwanted babies. Yes, goats can get busy as young as two months old, so move quickly. Neutering is another procedure that can easily be done at home. If you aren’t up for it, your vet will gladly do this for you. The least expensive and most reliable method is cutting with a knife. Of course, this procedure comes with a higher risk of infection and other problems. There is a less-risky way to handle neutering which we will talk about in a moment. But, for now, here's a description of how the cutting procedure works. Keep in mind that you don't want to try this until you've had some guidance from a vet or from a trusted and experienced friend who has goat experience and can demonstrate neutering on their own goats while you watch and assist. To neuter with this method, you’ll need a sharp knife or scalpel, soap and water, disinfectant, syringes and tetanus antitoxin. Many vets advise that this can be done without anesthetic, because the procedure is so quick with little pain. Have a helper hold your male goat. Grab your clean knife and with your hand, push the testes up and out of the way. Cut a slit in the lower third of the scrotum so that the testes are now visible. Using your fingers, firmly pop out one of the testes and pull down on it until the cord breaks. Then, repeat for the other one. In older kids or adults, use the knife to cut the cord rather than pulling down. Be careful not to perform a clean cut, but rather scrape it slowly until it fully erodes. This will prevent blood loss. Apply antiseptic solution to the wound and administer an injection of tetanus.Your goat should be back to normal in a few hours. Reading about this procedure is worse than actually doing it. Most goat keepers who try it for the first time say they're surprised at how easy it was. They even say it's the easiest form of castration for both owner and goat, compared to other methods. There are a few other methods of neutering to make note of.
Emasculation is the process of stopping the flow of sperm from the testicles. One way to do this which doesn't involve any cutting is with a device called a Burdizzo. This device crushes each of two spermatic cords coming from the testicles. This is known as the "bloodless" method since no cutting is done. You can simply use the Burdizzo on the outside of the scrotum which presses down and crushes the spermatic cords one at a time.
A Burdizzo is a popular tool for neutering goats since it involves no incisions and less risk of infection and other complications.
The upside of this method is the fact that no cutting is involved, so there is a lot less chance of infection or other complications. There is also no wound that has to heal. The downside is that you cannot see the spermatic cords inside the scrotum to make sure they were fully crushed. And the cords are left intact, rather than being cut, so you can't be absolutely sure that the flow of sperm from the testicles was completely stopped.
An emasculator is a device similar to a Burdizzo, except that it comes in lots of different forms, including some that actually help cut the cords in addition to crushing them. The upside of cutting is that it adds some reassurance that the cords are actually separated. The downside is that cutting is involved, so there's a little more risk of infection, and more healing required.
Also referred to as the elastrator-method, this involves using a heavy rubber band (elastrator band) or ring to cut off blood supply to the testes. This is also a bloodless method and best used in younger goats whose scrotal tissues have not yet fully developed.
Photo Credit: C. Goodwin
An elastrator tool is a highly effective form of goat castration. It puts a rubber band around the goat's scrotum and testicles which causes them to gradually shrivel up and drop off.
The upside of this method is its simplicity and it doesn't require cutting. A tool called an elastrator is used to apply an elastrator band. The downside is that you have to wait for the goat's testicles and scrotum to gradually shrink up and fall off, which can cause some minimal discomfort for the goat, and which can sometimes develop problems in the process, such as when the band partially slips off. After your buck has been neutered, he is then referred to as a "wether". Whatever method you choose, a neutered buck is a cleaner and friendlier addition to your herd. Neutering your goats is part of any good, humane goat health care program.
Speaking of goat health care, it’s always a good idea to guard your herd from any natural predators. Dogs, donkeys, llamas, and alpacas all make great guardian animals. These animals will live and bond with your goats while taking their jobs quite seriously. Livestock guardian dogs are one of the most popular and effective animals to help protect your herd. You just need to make sure to pick the right breed, because certain dog breeds are bred specifically to guard livestock, and trying to use other breeds can be a problem.
Photo Credit: Devra, Los Osos
A good livestock guardian dog will live with your goats, bond with them, become part of the goat herd, and will risk its life to protect the goats.
Some breeds that are most popular as livestock guardian dogs are Great Pyrenees, Anatolian Shepherd, Maremma, Karakachan, Akbash and others. We use dogs on our farm that are Maremma and Karakachan and they've done an amazing job. They bond with our goats as if they are part of the goat herd. They sleep with the goats and stand over them guarding them, especially the babies. They also stand nearby guarding whenever some new babies are being kidded. At night especially, our LGD's (livestock guardian dogs) are on the alert, and have chased away plenty of predators in the dark. In our area, we have a lot of coyotes that come around the farm. But with the dogs in place, we haven't lost any goats to the coyotes, thankfully. Donkeys are quite intelligent and have great hearing and eyesight. They’re also natural herd animals so they’ll likely stay by your goats side all the time and protect them. However, some people report having problems with donkeys, so one of the other livestock guardian animals may be a better choice, especially if you're just getting started. Many problems reported with donkeys may simply be because they weren't trained properly. A donkey requires understanding and training to make sure it behaves properly. Llamas and alpacas act similarly to donkeys, and also eat the same feed as your goats which is quite convenient. Llamas work better alone, so there’s no need to have several as guards. Some people report mixed results with llamas and alpacas, with some people saying they work great as livestock guardians, while others say they don't work that well. Sometimes you have to test things yourself to see what works best for your own herd.
No matter your purpose, goats can be a rewarding and loving addition to your life. They’re cute, cuddly, produce milk, and can be used as meat or simply kept to graze and maintain your property. And for us, the best part with dairy goats is the amazing milk, cheese, soap and other dairy products you can produce for your family and to make money. It's a lot more fun focusing on those things, than being worried when your goats are sick. Also, when you own goats, or any other animal, you have a responsibility to take care of them properly. So it's important to establish a responsible goat health care program for your herd. Now that you've completed this guide, you should know some proactive steps to take to keep your goats healthy, and to recognize and treat some of the common goat diseases and health problems if you see signs of those in your herd. This will equip you to develop an effective goat health care regimen on your farm. Caring for goats is an on-going adventure. With good preventive care, smart tactics and a proper toolkit, you’ll do a great job raising your new herd.