To Start, after deciding what breed of goat you would like to start your herd with, you will want to look at the breed standard as outlined by any of the breed registries (ADGA, TMGR, AGS..for example.) Understanding what features your goat should have will help you identify features that are amiss.
If you are a visual learner, research several pictures of your goat breed on the internet. Look at goats from every angle, look at healthy goats, then do a search for ‘sick’ goats and compare the images. You will notice immediately that the images and/or videos you may find of sick goats should stand out strongly in your mind, and the animals are exemplified by having or being:
Having dander, or patches of hair missing
Having a hunched over appearance
Discharge from nose and/or eyes that is excessive
Visible cuts, abrasions, sores
Fluffed up fur
Panting, bloated appearance
Swollen, Red, Inflamed mammary
Swollen, over-sized knees
Slow walk, or unwillingness to walk/ lay down; walking as if the animal is in pain.
Fowl smelling breath
All of the above are signs and symptoms of illness. Until you are familiar with goat diseases and their treatment (or ability to be treated) do NOT purchase a goat with these symptoms. Do NOT purchase any other goat on the property that may have been exposed to/ in contact with the goat(s) displaying these symptoms. And DO NOT get caught up in feeling sorry for an animal in need of medical care.
When you are building your herd, you ONLY want to include animals that are 100% healthy. Purchasing healthy animals will not only spare you the expense of an unnecessary medical bill, but will also save your herd from any unnecessary RISK of contracting disease. As my mother always used to tell me when I was charged of taking care of our pets: “An ounce of prevention is worth a Pound of cure.”
So what diseases are so terrible that you shouldn’t introduce them to your herd? Good question, and there are 5 really good answers:
CAE (Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis): A retro-virus like AIDS found in humans, CAE is Characterized by the swollen joints that leads to the rather painful arthritis resulting from this desease. CAE is transmitted to goats through their mother’s milk, and through blood serium. Animals with CAE have shortened life spans, usually not living past the age of 5 before needing to be euthanized. There is no cure for this disease.
CL ( caseous lymphadenitis): CL is a bacterial infection that infects the lymph tissues, causeing weeping puss filled abscesses that ooze from the affected animals flesh. The sores may look simply like pimples, or be large visible abscesses. CL abscesses also affect the internal organs as well, not just the skin. CL is contracted by exposure to the fluid from the weeping sores, through saliva, and through the blood and or milk of an effected carrier animal. There is no cure for this disease.
Johnes: This disease affects not only goats, but sheep and cattle as well. Johnes is acquired through the milk of a carrier animal, or ingestion of feces. It affects the host by causing irreversible damage and inflammation to the digestive tract. It may also effect the animal neurologically; eventually leading to death. Johnes is also called "chronic wasting disease" and has been linked to causing Crohns Disease in humans. There is no cure for this disease.
Brucellosis: A viral disease that is the leading cause of early/late term abortions in cattle, deer, sheep and goats. It is spread through ingestion of birth fluids/placenta of infected aborted fetuses in pastures or paddocks. And also thought to be transmitted to healthy females through the bodily fluids exchanged between two animals during breeding. Making a healthy male, a carrier that will then spread the infection.
and something I wasn’t aware of, that is now another growing problem in the US for fellow goat herders..
Scapie: This disease is carried by SHEEP and is spread to goats. It affects the goat neurologically, and is very similar to ‘Mad Cow Disease.’ Animals with scapie are to be euthanized, burned, and all equipment exposed to the animal is to be either burned or deep sanitized. The earth where the animal(s) were housed must have the first ten inches of soil removed. No animal may be kept on/around that soil for ten years according to the Arizona State Department of Agriculture.
As you can now see, it pays to be selective not only in what goat(s) to purchase, but also from WHOM you purchase them from. Always ask for current testing results for the above diseases before bringing a goat home. Some sellers may not have herd testing results, if this is the case for the person you are purchasing from be certain that they are a reputable goat breeder. Talk to other people who have also purchased from them to see if THEY tested their goats after purchase, and see what their results were. It pays to be prudent, and research before you buy. There are quite a few reputable breeders who are no longer testing for the "big 5" since they have ceased herd building, and now operate only as a closed herd.
*A closed herd simply means that they have enough genetic variation that they no longer purchase/ introduce new animals. Instead they breed all the animals they need.
**On another note. The big 5 diseases are primarily spread by people who have carrier animals and don’t know it (or who do), then they breed those animals and pass these diseases on to another unsuspecting person. Then the cycle continues. Do NOT be a part of that cycle. Testing your animals and NOT BREEDING infected animals will ultimately benefit you, as well as the person who purchases from you in the future… There is NO cure for the above listed diseases. Do your part, and breed/purchase responsibly.
Quarantine spares you from heartache:
As a buyer it doesn’t hurt to quarantine and test new animals. The department of Agriculture recommends holding an animal in quarantine for 30 days, and testing twice over that 30 day period. Animals under stress are more likely to have flare-ups of any disease they may be carrying. If the animal is isolated from the rest of your existing herd, it will also be easier to treat/ contend with on its own rather than having to test or treat the whole herd if an issue arises..
Other diseases/issues that are less serious, and are more likely to be encountered:
Lice: Lice can be found on every mammal on the planet. The nice thing about goat lice is that they do not host on humans. Goat lice are very small (approximately a millimeter in length), they are generally grey in color, and cause a variety of skin issues. Lice can be found along the animals’ top line, and around the head. Not every animal that has lice may be visually apparent. The best way to determine if your goat has lice is to examine him hands on. Start by stroking the fur against the grain, look carefully at the skin as you move, and keep an eye out for the tiny little lice that get disturbed. Many times they will come up to the tip of the hairs and then crawl back down after being disturbed.. There are many ways to treat a goat with lice, so don’t be too alarmed.
Internal Parasites: simply referred to as ‘worms.’ There are many types of internal parasites that affect goats. Tape worms, Liver Flukes, and a wide variety of other parasitic worms find themselves at home in your goat. A fecal exam is the best way to determine the worm ‘bio-load’ in your goat, that is the ‘safe’ level of worms living in the goats body. Because goats eat off the ground where the worms live, you will never be 100% worm free. Signs that your goat is suffering from worms include: emaciation, lethargy, anemia, coughing, and in the case of tape worms.. seeing shed pieces of the parasite in feces.
Mineral Deficiency: Here out west, copper and selenium are the greatest concern for mineral deficiency. Copper affects the skin tone/pliability, hooves, and even hair coarseness. Selenium effects muscle condition, bone development, and neurological pathways. It is very important that your goats receive high quality feed, loose minerals, and additional supplementation of these minerals to prevent poor developed hooves, white muscle disease, and a host of other health issues. Many folks choose to have their vet administer a BoSe injection once a year to ensure their goats remain healthy.
Over grown/poor hooves: Over grown, poorly trimmed, poorly formed hooves are the leading cause for lameness and arthritis in goats. Care of the hooves should NEVER be overlooked. Your goats are built from the ground up, not the other way around. Hoof rot is another consideration a new owner, and can be easily identified by the blackened abscess in the hoof wall or foul smell. Always inspect your animals feet prior to purchase, and ask the seller when they last trimmed their goats hooves so that you can better determine if the amount of over growth is appropriate for the time they estimated. If your goat is walking on ‘elf shoes’ you would know that he has not had his feet trimmed recently.
Mastitis: If you are purchasing a goat in milk, check the goats udder to be sure it is not red, swollen, or inflamed. Check the milk. Does it come out thick, yellowish, and fowl smelling? Or is it clean white, and fluid? Early onset of mastitis requires a test to determine infection. Late stage infection is visible, and causes severe damage to the mammary system resulting in gangrene that may effect one side of the udder (or sometimes both), and with the death of the tissue--cause the mammary to cease functioning. Some forms of Mastitis are highly contagious to other goats in the heard, and can lay dormant in carrier does. If you are looking for a dairy goat, what use is a doe that doesn’t produce milk, or that can damage healthy does mammary systems??!
Welcome to the Suds Bucket!
Adventures, Experiences, Ideas...it's all here.