Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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FOUNDER IN GOATS

Goats can founder -- just like horses. Laminitis and the resulting Founder are usually found in intensively-managed herds of goats. The term "founder" derives from the sinking of the bones in the hoof. The cause is improper feeding.

One of the many bad effects of overfeeding processed/sacked grains or feed that is too high in grain-induced energy ("hot" feeds) is Founder. A goat that has foundered will walk on calloused front knees and will have severely overgrown hooves. It will have difficulty walking flat on the soles of its hooves because the bones in the feet have rotated out of normal position, shifting weight bearing to its heels. The hooves may feel hot to the touch, especially where the hoof wall meets the leg (coronary band).

Acute Laminitis/Founder produces hooves that are sore and hot; when the condition becomes chronic, the bones of the feet become malformed and the hooves are overgrown. Chronic Founder is the type most often seen in goats.

Unless immediate and rapid corrective action is undertaken, Founder is is not curable. With great effort, Founder can be managed for the duration of the life of the goat. However, the hooves will never return to normal and the goat will be handicapped.

When you overfeed grain concentrates, one of the bad things that can happen is that the laminae of the hoof is affected. "Laminitis" is the term used to describe the initial outbreak of the disease when the laminae become inflamed and break down, releasing its hold on the bones in the hoof. "Founder" describes the resulting downward rotation of the third phalanx bone in the hoof.

The laminae is a web of tissue and blood vessels that holds the bones of the hoof in place. When the laminae breaks down, the blood vessels will either collapse or flood the hooves with blood, releasing the bones from their proper positions. When the third phalanx bone rotates downward, it may actually penetrate the sole of the hoof -- making walking very difficult for the goat because weight bearing has been shifted to its heels.

Usually the front feet are first affected, but a severely foundered goat will walk on its front knees with its back legs uncharacteristically forward under its body. Abnormal hoof growth also occurs. The toes may turn upward, growing into a "pixie-shoe" shape. A foundered hoof has thick walls, extra material on the sole, and grows abnormally fast and irregularly in shape for the remaining years of the goat's life.

The origins of Founder trace back to improper feeding and may also occur in conjunction with other medical conditions. Show goats and other obese/overfed goats are prime candidates for Laminitis/Founder. Overfeeding a high-energy diet or feeding a concentrated grain regimen with low-to-zero roughage sets the stage for this illness.

The actual culprit is usually Ruminal Acidosis. Acidic (lactic acidosis) or bacterial (enterotoxemia) changes in the rumen brought on by improper feeding set the chain of events into motion that causes Laminitis/Founder. Roughage/long fiber (weeds, leaves, grass hay) act as a buffer to this reaction, keeping the proper pH balance in the rumen. A sudden change in nutrition levels, an imbalance in the concentrate-to-forage ratio, or an unanticipated change in forage quality are all possible culprits.

How you feed, how much and how often you feed, and how the feed was processed are important. Appropriate amounts of grains that are highly digestible should be fed. For example, dry rolled grains are less digestible than moist or ground grains. (But don't feed molasses-based feeds like sweet feed or silage because they cause problems that I discuss in another article.)

Laminitis can be the immediate result of a nutritional fiasco or can be delayed by several weeks. It is possible to have a goat down, bring it back to apparent health, and have it founder weeks later. Individual goats may react differently to feeding methods that sometimes result in Laminitis/Founder. Some animals will develop Overeating Disease, some will go into Ruminal Acidiosis, and others will founder.

Laminitis/Founder can also occur when a goat is moved from poor to lush forage, either seasonally at home or across country. A fat goat that is forced to walk or run on hard-packed ground in the name of "show conditioning" is likely to develop Laminitis/Founder. Heat stress, complications of kidding (mastitis, uterine infection, retained placenta), and even pneumonia can lead to Laminitis/Founder. But incorrect feeding is the underlying cause.

Identical feeding methods can result in different illnesses from goat to goat within the same herd. If you are raising goats in managed or confined conditions , you should consult a qualified goat nutritionist and have a feed ration developed appropriate to your location, climate, herd density, and management style. The most complicated thing about raising goats is proper nutrition.

A recently-foundered goat is more likely to be successfully treated. At early onset of Founder, immersing the goat's hooves in ice water may constrict the blood vessels, forcing blood out of the hooves before too much damage is done. Ice-water immersion of hooves should be continued until the hooves are no longer hot to the touch. The goat will likely cooperate because the procedure brings relief. If the goat has been foundered for quite a while, the hoof pain will have produced calloused knees because the goat will be walking on its knees and the muscles in the legs will have shortened.

To determine the extent of damage, x-ray the hooves to see how far the bones have rotated from their normal positions. If the rotation is severe, there is not much that can be done to help. Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Banamine and Phenylbutazone (short term) and aspirin (long term) may be used to make the goat more comfortable and encourage movement. Both Banamine and Bute are rough on the digestive tract and should be used in limited amounts. Consult a qualified goat veterinarian for advice and assistance concerning use of prescription medications.

A foundered goat should be slowly taken completely off grain concentrates and fed only quality grass hay and goat minerals until the disease is under control. Use repeated oral dosages of Milk of Magnesia (15 cc per 60 pounds bodyweight orally every 4 to 6 hours accompanied by generous amounts of electrolytes to keep the goat hydrated) to help reduce the grain overload. Orally repopulating the gut with live bacteria using a product like Goat Guard Probiotic Paste may assist in more efficient digesting of the offending grain concentrates that are already present in the goat's body.

The two claws of each hoof need to be regularly and frequently trimmed as closely as possible almost down to the blood at least twice a month. Bone rotation within the hoof is relatively slow, so identifying early-onset Laminitis and frequently trimming the hooves can have a positive effect. The goat's hooves will always grow unusually fast and abnormally in shape for the rest of its life. Through repeated hoof trimming, you are trying to encourage the bones in the hooves to move back to their normal positions. This is a very long-term goal, if it works at all in the late stages of Founder.

Exercise is critical to the health of a foundered goat. The goat must be made to stand on its hooves daily so that leg muscles do not contract. A severely-foundered goat may have to be splinted daily for it to be able to stand.

Once again: Laminitis/Founder are, for the most part, preventable diseases that are usually caused by IMPROPER FEEDING.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 2.1.22

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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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