This article will cover a variety of subjects which keep coming up, making it clear to this writer that goat producers lack essential information on the topics.
Cydectin - A Texas breeder has reported that she has lost five kids and two older does and expects to lose at least three more goats to what she believes is Cydectin poisoning. She used Cydectin in pour-on form according to label directions. The goats which she had necropsied showed nerve damage. Prior to death, the kids were walking with high and loose steps, one was nearly blind, and the others had weak hindquarters and quivered all over their entire bodies. Two bucks who survived completely lost all their body hair, and when it grew back, the skin was scabby and bumpy.
While conclusive proof that Cydectin was the complete cause of this problem is not yet available, this producer fully believes it is. And she is not the only person reporting health problems with goats after using Cydectin.
This points out the importance of not using medications off-label. Cydectin is not approved for use on goats, therefore the manufacturer has no liability whatsoever when a producer uses it off-label.
Many medications that producers have to use on goats are not approved for goats. However, some can be used effectively and appropriately if they are used under veterinary supervision. This is absolutely critical. Do not use medications off-label or extra-label on goats on an experimental basis.
Valbazen - This de-wormer should never be used on pregnant does. It can cause abortions at certain points in the preganancy. Don't take chances; don't use it on pregnant does.
Copper, Selenium, and other essential minerals - Goats must have copper in trace amounts in their diets. For example, copper deficency cause abortions. Much of the United States is selenium deficient; find out if your area has this problem and give your goats Bo-Se or other selenium additives, as suggested by your vet or feed company.
Feed companies hire nutritionists and other scientists who study feed requirements of the species for which they manufacture feed. Few of us are smarter than these researchers. Unless you absolutely have no other alternative, don't become a feed mixer. Chances are, they know more than you do, particularly since nutritional requirements vary from region to region.
Loose minerals work better with goats than mineral blocks. Goats tend to chew rather than lick mineral blocks. This is hard on their teeth. And don't worry if they eat it sometimes and ignore it at other times. Their bodies know what they need. Leave the loose minerals out, free choice, and even week-old babies will eat them. Goats on browse tend to eat more loose minerals than pen-fed goats. Apparently the sack feed has adequate mineral mixture in it.
Milk Fever - This is a misleading term, because "fever" is not involved and also because cattle people sometimes call mastitis by this name.
In goats, milk fever is hypocalcemia . . . inadequate absorption of calcium immediately prior to kidding. Symptoms include sudden loss of appetite, mild bloat or constipation, unsteady gait, and low body temperature. Intravenous administration of calcium is the treatment of choice in severe cases. Producers can try CMPK oral drench or MFO Milk Fever Oral drench; these products contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in controlled dosage and are available through co-ops, feed stores, and mail order houses such as Valley Vet or Caprine Supply.
The symptoms are so general that they can be mistaken for ruminal acidosis or even pregnancy toxemia. Do not treat these problems by feeding alfalfa hay to does immediately prior to kidding. It is high in calcium, but it will cause further problems.
Pregnancy Toxemia & Ketosis - These two conditions cause similar problems, but they occur at different times in relation to kidding date.
Pregnancy Toxemia generally occurs within the two-week time frame immediately prior to kidding. Too much protein and not enough roughage causes pregnancy toxemia. When a doe is within two weeks of kidding, her body is full of kids, thereby reducing the size of her rumen. If she is fed a very high-protein diet, she does not have enough room left to accomodate the roughage she needs to stimulate her rumen. Goats must have roughage to induce rumen activity or they cannot digest their food.
Ketosis usually occurs immediately after kidding and results from inadequate protein in the dam's diet. When her body begins to draw upon its own protein reserves to grow her babies inside her, ketones are produced which begin to kill her.
Some producers practice a method of feeding called flushing for several weeks prior to kidding. They feed the does extra rations of products such as shell corn to "fatten" them up a bit, thinking that this produces multiple births. Research indicates that the number of fetuses is determined much earlier , at time of conception. Flushing is really correctly done before does are bred to bring them into better condition. This procedure is NOT recommended unless your meat goats are being made to survive on browse/pasture/forage, in which instance it is possible that fetuses can die from lack of nutrition or from pulling their dam down so much as her body struggles to feed them in utero that both she and the fetuses don't survive. Feeding extra rations immediately prior to kidding will likely cause Pregnancy Toxemia (see above).
Goat Medicine is the authorative book on goats. Written by Dr. Mary C. Smith and Dr. David M. Sherman, this 620 page book can be purchased over the Internet from AlpineHaus for about $75.00, or your local bookstore can order it for you. The ISBN number is 0-8121-1478-7. Although written for professionals and hence a bit technical, it is an invaluable addition to your goat library. If you own no other book on goats, this is the one to have.
Directory of Goat Vets Across the United States - Recognizing that many folks live in areas where finding vets who know anything about goats is difficult, the owner of the Cybergoat site on the Internet has begun a listing of knowledgeable goat vets nationwide. Go to www.cybergoat.com for this information. If you have a good goat vet that you think should be added to this list, send that information to the Webmaster, Donna Palmer. The usual disclaimers apply.
Diatomaceous Earth - This product is a "hot" issue nowadays. Producers are using it as a de-wormer, although several studies have been done on using it for de-worming goats and sheep without positive results. Nevertheless, producers who believe in DE believe in DE with an almost religious fervor.
DE appears to be effective in fly control, but its efficacy in controlling internal parasites such as worms is not scientifically proven yet. Supporters believe that DE kills the tiny worms by cutting them up inside the goat. This writer has yet to hear a realistic answer as to why it would not also hurt the goat's internal organs.
I truly hope that DE (and other products) can be proven under controlled testing to be effective against worms while at the same time not harmful to the goats upon whom it is being used. At this point, however, I would not recommend giving up the chemical de-wormers and fecal counts. Further study is needed on this subject.
De-Worming Programs and Problems - This writer honestly believes that most producers' problems with worm control derives from the lack of a consistent and regimented de-worming program and the failure to do regular fecal counts on their animals. In between fecal counts, use the layman's best method of checking for worms; pull the lower eyelid down and look at the color of the inside of the lower lid. It should be bright red to bright pink. Light pink means worms, and white coloring means anemia. This is much more effective that checking gum color. Of course, it is not a substitute for fecal egg counts.
Goats cannot be de-wormed and then put back into the same pen or pasture without a high risk of re-infestation. Pastures must be rotated and pens must be kept clean of feces or re-infestation is certain. A goat sloughs off feces-containing worms for about 48 hours after de-worming medication is administered. The life cycle of a stomach worm is three weeks, and pregnant and nursing does are particularly susceptible to worm infestation.
Waiting for a worm problem to appear and then chasing it dooms the producer to continual problems with worms. Proper Management and Nutrition - This is a pet peeve of this writer. If a producer cannot afford to properly house and feed his goats, then he can't afford to own them. Many of us are raising goats in small pastures or pens. This is an invitation for disaster. Over-crowding causes all sorts of caprine health problems. "Cleanliness is next to godliness" in these circumstances. It also determines whether your goats survive and thrive, or whether they do poorly and die.
Identifying Goats - Male goats are called bucks (not "billies"); female goats are does (not "nannies"). And castrated boys are wethers.
Internet Goat Discussion Groups - If you are not on the Internet, you need to get on it. This is being said by a person who heartily resisted it until the summer of 1998. The Internet is a wonderful place to learn more about goats. Join a meat-goat discussion group, where other producers and animal health professionals discuss goat-related issues daily.
This writer established an Internet meat-goat discussion group at Thanksgiving 1998. It is called ChevonTalk, is a free but closed list (you have to sign up and disclose who you are), and can be joined by going here and filling out the ChevonTalk form. Or contact me directly to be added to ChevonTalk.
Any of the Articles pages, upon which many of my previous columns are posted and can be downloaded and printed out for your reference. Organizations are encouraged to re-print them so long as they are reprinted in full (so nothing is taken out of context . . . . liability issues, of course) and the writer gets credit for the article being reprinted.
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