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Goat Health and Husbandry Overview

Goat Health and Husbandry Overview

Since goats are slow to show symptoms, they are usually pretty sick by the time you notice it. Diagnosis is difficult because symptoms overlap and can be confusing. A sick goat needs an immune boost or you run into that nasty saying in the industry that goes like this: “A sick goat is a dead goat”. We give a sub Q injection of Bovi Sera at the first sign of any problem. Administer a 10cc injection two days in a row for an adult that’s looking “funny” and 5cc to a younger goats, two days in a row. That’s the closest thing to a “silver bullet” I can suggest. Oh, a 5cc sub Q to every newborn is important, too. Whether it looks like the best baby or the worst. The Bovi Sera enhances any other treatment you find necessary and often is all you need to do, period. Don’t raise goats without it.


Take the time to observe your goats often. Daily if possible. Look for general condition and behavior. Are they all standing and walking normally? If they always come up to you as you approach is everyone present and accounted for or is someone lagging behind or missing? Check for bloat, signs of pain, labored breathing, coughing, etc.


If you notice a change you will need to check vital signs. A fever thermometer and a stethoscope are good tools for helping to diagnosis a possible problem. Temperature (10ЉF +/- 1ЉF) Heart rate (70 to 80 beats per minute for an adult, a little more rapid for a kid) Respiration (12 to 15 breaths per minute). Next check the color of the lining of the lower eye lid. It should be a nice deep salmon color. The fecal matter should be pelletized, not all stuck together or soft and unformed. The appearance of the coat should be smooth with no lumps or bumps under the skin. Hoof care is really important so check their feet and keep the hooves well trimmed and level. (shelled corn does not make good goat feed and an over abundance will result in constant hoof overgrowth as well as many other health problems) Listen for coughing, wheezing, grunting or grinding teeth. These signs may indicate an infection and / or pain.


Having made your initial observations you may want to contact your veterinarian and discuss your findings. You may be required to bring the animal in for an exam or schedule a farm “house call”. Books dealing with goat health are a great help, and consulting with other respected goat keepers in your area may shed light on the subject. And then there is always the internet. Again, everyone has their own way of dealing with goats so you will have to be the judge of what course of action you want to take.


Which leads to another common mistake and that is to take no action at all. As mentioned previously, symptoms need to be addressed ASAP. Ignoring the problem may only lead to a bigger problem down the road. Be informed, have some general products on hand for treating and emergencies and have a veterinarian that you can call when necessary.

Goat Care Guidelines

There are some basic guidelines that you will find very helpful for your day to day care of your goats. They will help your productivity and decrease illness and other problems. A sickness in one goat or your whole herd can cost 10 – 20 times more when you have to treat it as opposed to the cost of prevention. Remember, some health problems can’t be treated with any success, no matter how much you pay. Then, prevention is your only defense.


Keep your barn and all equipment clean and safe. Do not allow debris such as scrap metal, old cars, etc. to accumulate in and around your barn and pasture. You are asking for trouble in the way of illness or injury when this type of debris is allowed to collect. Nails protruding from boards in an area where goats can rub or climb means big trouble for you and your animals.


Cleanliness is the name of the game. Feeders and waterers must be periodically scrubbed and sanitized to keep them free from contamination and bacteria. This will also help in controlling parasites, as well as disease.


Soiled bedding must also be removed and disposed of regularly. Spread a layer of powdered household lime into the dirt before distributing the clean, dry bedding. This will help eliminate bacteria and worm eggs and neutralizes offensive odors. By eliminating ammonia from urine, you are also helping to eliminate respiratory ailments, parasite infestations and other ills.


Balanced nutrition is essential. The ration you feed must be correct for goats. This aids in keeping your goats free of digestive disorders and is a goat’s best defense against disease and illness. Of course, pasture is important, too. You may want to consider planting to improve your pasture. If you cross-fence your pastures and wooded areas, goats may be rotated from one site to another. This does much to aid in the control of parasites when done in conjunction with your regular de-worming program. Never let your goats eat grass that is short and close to the dirt unless you are prepared to fight a continuous worm problem. Consult your county extension agent regarding plants in your area that are toxic to goats. Some, such as mountain laurel, azalea and cherry are deadly and must be removed from the premises.


Stay up to date on the latest information on goat illnesses and herd management. It will be beneficial to build a library of books and publications written about goats by reliable authorities. Attending workshops and seminars that are offered by local colleges, goat clubs and county agents are invaluable. Talking with other goat owners may be helpful, but often proves to be confusing since opinions vary widely on goat care.


Keep good records. Milking records are your most valuable marketing tool when selling a doe or her kids. Medical records are a MUST. You may think you will remember when you last wormed or did some other medical procedure. But, all too often, memories fade and you fall down on the job.


Know a veterinarian that you can call. Don’t wait until an emergency. A qualified vet with whom you have a working relationship is an invaluable resource, both for their diagnostic services and treatment, as well. Make sure the vet you contact is interested in working with goats. Some plead total ignorance when it comes to goats, in which case, contact someone else.



Problems Related to Mineral Deficiency



Paralytic Problems    ‑‑Possible Nutritional Answers

Milk Fever                               ‑‑Ca/Phos. Ratio; Vit. D; inorganic sulfate

Downer Milk Fever                 ‑‑The above plus magnesium

Grass Tetany               ‑‑Magnesium

Knuckling fetlocks, Weak Hind leg     ‑‑Vitamin E, Selenium, Copper

Nerve Loss                               ‑‑Copper

Ataxia                          ‑‑Copper



Breeding Problems    ‑‑Possible Nutritional Answers

Retained Placentas, metritis  ‑‑Copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin E

Lack of estrus              ‑‑Copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin E

Tailless sperm in semen         ‑‑Selenium

Lack of libido               ‑‑Copper, molybdenum



Hoof Problems                       ‑‑Possible Nutritional Answers

Hoof Rot                                  ‑‑Copper, iodine

Abnormal hoof growth                       ‑‑Copper

Soft hoof growth                     ‑‑Copper

Swollen Fetlocks                      ‑‑Copper

Laminitis                                 ‑‑High rumen acid upsets copper absorption

Hairy wart resistance             ‑‑Copper (nutrition), formaldehyde (foot bath)



Intestinal Problems   ‑‑Possible Nutritional Answers

Acidosis (pH balance)             ‑‑Sodium bicarbonate

Low butterfat test                   ‑‑Sodium bicarbonate

Undigested feed in manure    ‑‑Copper, cobalt

Scouring                                  ‑‑Copper, molybdenum

Worm resistance                    ‑‑Copper, molybdenum

Low production                       ‑‑Copper, zinc, manganese, inorganic sulfate

Abnormal appetite                  Copper, cobalt



Metabolic Problems  Possible Nutritional Answers

High somatic cell count          Copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin E

Ketosis                         Copper, inorganic sulfate

Pneumonia                              Copper, zinc, selenium, vitamin E

Head abnormalities                Cooper, selenium, magnesium

Anemia                                    Iron, copper, cobalt

Retarded Growth                    Copper, molybdenum

Sudden Death              Copper, selenium, grease & nitrate

Off-Flavor Milk                       High iron (feed or water; vitamin E)

High culling rate                     Poor mineral nutrition program

Fat Cow Syndrome                  Copper, inorganic sulfate

Hair off color, no bloom         Copper, selenium

Tongue lolling             Copper


*Nutrition Chart by Myra Bamberger – From Agribusiness Dairyman as printed in

United Caprine News, July, 1996 – – reprinted from REDGA Goat Notes.


How To Give An Injection

A Sub Q injection is given by pulling up a little pinch of skin to make a “tent”. Using a 1/2 inch needle (so you don’t go in one side of the tent and out the other) go into the side of the “tent” and inject the medication/vaccine.


An IM injection is given directly into the large muscle in the lower hip (primary) or shoulder (secondary). I use a 1/2 inch needle for IM as well as Sub Q. To insure that I am not in a blood vessel, I pull back the plunger a little and look for blood in the syringe. If you see blood, try another site.




Temperature: 104Љ F (+ or – 1)

Heart Rate: 70-80 beats per min. (faster for kids)

Respiration Rate: 12-15 per minute (faster for kids)

Rumen Movement: 1-1.5 per minute


Onset of heat (estrus): 7-12 months

Length of heat: 12-48 hours – avg. about 1 day

Heat Cycle (estrous cycle): 17-23 days – avg. about 21 days.

Length of Gestation: 148-156 days – avg. 150 days.