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Test Your Goats

Test Your Goats

To some goat owners testing your goats may not mean anything, to others they may have heard of it but do not think it pertains to them, but to informed and educated goat owners it means everything! No matter the type of goats you raise, some form of yearly testing should be done.


So what does “testing your herd” mean? This means you, as a responsible goat owner, takes the time to either 1) have your veterinarian come out to your farm and take blood samples from all the goats that are over 6 months  in age or 2) draw your own blood and send it off to a laboratory for testing. This has to happen EVERY YEAR!!


Reputable breeders and responsible goat owners will try and protect their goats and breeding programs from infiltration of disease, mainly Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE); but most breeders go beyond this one type of testing.  Most breeders include testing for Tuberculosis (TB), Johne’s, Brucellosis and sometimes Caseous Lymphoma (CL).  They all can be done with the same blood sample that you already have drawn, except for TB which is explained below.


Whether you feel competent enough to do your own blood draws is up to you. I personally like to have the vet come and pull my blood so that there is never any question as to my status of maintaining a disease free herd. (Yellow Rose Farm has maintained their disease free rating in Georgia since 2003, before that in Texas since 1998) We are lucky, as most of the dairy goat herds in Georgia are free of CAE. In fact, according to the Georgia Department of Agriculture, we rank as one of the top disease free states.


So what to test for? Well here is where differences are going to come up, depending on what your goats purpose is, whether you test your goats or not for CAE, Johne’s, TB, Brucellosis and CL. If you raise your goats for dairy purposes you will probably want to test your herd for most of the above diseases. If you show your animals, you will definitely want to test your goats for most if not all of the above. If your goats are pets that you never decide to breed then you may not want the expense of testing and to take your chances with your pets, although I would suggest otherwise. Goats being kept for meat and fiber purposes should also be tested as it is believed that some diseases are zoonotic, which means people can contract a form of the disease. Many studies have found links between Johne’s in livestock and Crohn’s disease in humans. Do you really want to take the risk?


Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE):  This disease has two forms: the arthritis (visible) and the encephalitis (internal). They both wreak havoc on dairy herds in the world. This disease causes painful arthritic joints, mastitis, decreased milk production. Once a goat has this disease they can never rid themselves of it. The disease will be passed from mother to kid through the milk.


Johne’s Disease: pronounced (Yo-knees)This disease shows up as rapid weight loss and diarrhea and may stay dormant for many years. It has been linked to Crohn’s Disease in humans. Once an animal has this disease there is no cure and it can spread very quickly in the herd. (


Tuberculosis (TB):  Although this disease has not been found prevalent in the US, there are still concerns since this disease can be transmitted to humans. There are 2 strains of TB that are tested for, bovine and avian. The veterinarian will inject a tiny bit of fluid into your goat, usually at the base of the tail. They will have to come back out to the farm and read the results of the testing within 3 days. Most goats come back with no reaction, some do. In fact, it is expected that a certain percentage of goats will come back as “suspect”. Don’t fret, it happens to all of us. The USDA veterinarian will come out to your farm and make another two injections, one for bovine TB and the other for avian TB. The USDA Veterinarian will come back and read the results. Most of the time, especially if you have chickens running around, it is the avian strain which causes no harm to your goats.


Brucellosis:  This disease can cause abortion of the fetus in late pregnancy, and in male goats can cause infertility and swollen joints.


Caseous Lymphoma (CL): This disease causes abscesses around the lymph glands most often around the jawline which burst open and drain. Once this disease is in your soil it is there forever. There are vaccines available through some drug companies.


What is the best way to ensure my animals we purchase are healthy? Do your homework… do not purchase at a sale barn or auction house, but purchase from a reliable breeder or goat owner. You will not get a hundred dollar dairy doe, but will have the peace of mind knowing that she comes from a disease free herd. When you go to purchase, do not just take the word of the goat owner, but ask to see the results of the testing for yourself.  Also worth mentioning, one year of testing does not make a herd disease free, ask for results from previous years also!!! Even if you buy a young goat that has not been tested at least you will know that it comes from a “clean” herd.


The cost of testing is expensive, I will not tell you otherwise, but in the whole scheme of things, worth every penny, dollar, hundred dollars.




Shannon Lawrence – Yellow Rose Farm 


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  1. by razlen
    Comment made on: July 3 2012

    Thank you for presenting this information. It will be very helpful and supportive in our ongoing attempt to educate prospective goat owners and, of course, individuals who currently own goats as pets or for milk and meat, about the advantages of maintaining a disease-free herd.

  2. by mmkeilman
    Comment made on: July 4 2012

    Well said and so important!!

  3. by CassieRousseau
    Comment made on: July 4 2012

    Is it possible to test for mycoplasma? I had a bad experience with my nanny goat and mycoplasma and I believe they contract it from their dam.

  4. by ParmeleyEwe
    Comment made on: October 26 2013

    We are thinking about getting a family milk goat and I was SO happy to find this article. I currently have a couple of dairy ewes and face (what I feel) is so much opposition from other sheep people when I ask them about their herd health and testing. Our flock is currently tested clean of Q-fever, brucella, OPP, CL, and Johne’s. How do you ask (or recommend asking) potential breeders about herd health?

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