Increasing involvement with goats - Veterinary Practice
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Increasing involvement with goats

MORE than 50 people attended the meeting and AGM of the Goat Veterinary Society at Leicester Racecourse last month.

The past year has seen a very good response from members when asked to contribute information, the Journal is being widely read and further information is available at

Dr Tony Andrews (chairman) invited students to contact the society to apply for support for projects related to the husbandry, disease aspects or production issues related to goats. There is a wide range of subjects studied in sheep and cattle that is able to be reviewed for goats.

The meeting highlighted clinical, disease and welfare topics and the introduction of a recording analysis for milking goats to enhance breeding potential.

Dr Aiden Foster (VLA Shrewsbury) outlined a selection of skin diseases, with reference to experiences with similar conditions in other species where goat reference cases were few. Raising the question, “Are yeasts important?”, he said that eight malassezia species had been identified in goats.

The yeast sets up a hypersensitivity response due to alteration in the skin microclimate leading to an allergic skin disease that, once identified, is easy to treat. Dermatitis and a greasy skin are the clinical signs noted by goat keepers.

Two conditions that have rarely been recorded in goats are the autoimmune disease caused by pemphigus and the herpes virus implicated malignant catarrhal fever (MCF).

A generalised scaling disease is noted all over the body with large pustules, which is quite dramatic. Impression smears can be taken from the pustules to assist diagnosis together with a skin biopsy but the history of the goat and the early clinical signs are very important to combine with the diagnostic tests. Hair follicles are affected with MCF leading to hair loss. If presented with a bald goat, the suggestion is to take a biopsy to confirm MCF. The disease may be under-reported.

Mange mites (chorioptes) are easy to diagnose from scrapings but the hypersensitivity may continue when the mites have gone. Secondary changes due to bacterial infection are likely. Topical treatment by bathing may be impractical for large groups of animals and the systemic macrolytic lactones will reducethe population but not eradicate the mites. Milk withdrawal periods are relevant for milking goats. Severely affected animals will need to be culled.

During discussion it was pointed out that the skin condition of goats improves with sunlight when the goats are turned out and the value of open yards was raised.

Caesarean section on the doe is expected to have a 93-96% dam survival rate. The greatest difference in failure rate is between vets and Dr Karin Mueller (Cambridge University) advises veterinary surgeons with a lower success rate to discuss their technique with colleagues.

Preparing the patient for surgery is highly important and as goats suffer hypothermia more readily than cattle or sheep there is a need for bubble wrap and blankets, with latex gloves over the feet to reduce bacterial challenge.

Local anaesthetic is the better choice if the dam is to look after the kid but with a conscious patient that may move, cough or attempt to jump off the table, keeping the scalpel parallel to the body wall reduces the risk of puncturing. Reduction of blood loss is important for goats and incision along the greater curvature of the uterus is advised.

Resuscitation of the foetus should be left to a non-sterile helper while the vet sutures the dam. Lavage around the ovaries, antibiotics, pain relief and application of fly repellent are standard procedures. If acidosis is suspected, the dam may have to be milked out and administration of colostrum delayed for three to four hours. Studies in Iraq have provided examples of many procedures. Malpresentations can usually be sorted out for normal vaginal delivery but there is a high risk of dystocia with the first kid.


The welfare of goats is a major issue and Kathy Anzuino (Honiton) has developed a protocol for the assessment of goat welfare following extensive observations of 24 farms with over 11,000 adult females. Individual goats are observed in the milking parlour using a mirror to look under teats and udders.

The physical condition and behavioural signs are recorded and pens of goats are noted for signs of scratching, coughing and whether they are bright and active or sick and dull. The protocol is available for others to adopt in order to assess herds of goats with minimal disruption to the farm

Further development of recording measures are indicated and a better understanding of behaviour in a herd provides indicators for husbandry that leads to better welfare and improvements in health. Goats have specific behaviour patterns, which are unlike cattle and sheep, with considerable underestimates on many farms of lameness and skin lesions and difficulties for stockpersons to detect udder lesions while working at speed in the milking parlour.

Knee calluses were observed in 99% of the goats but it is not clear when these are considered a welfare problem. Full details of the various conditions observed are available from the society.

Genetic improvement

A show of hands from milking goat owners present indicated a high level of value to the proposal put forward by Dr Mike Coffey (SAC Edinburgh) to assess milk recording data as a means of offering genetic improvement. Following a pilot project, three large milk producing herds are providing data and the results will be discussed at a workshop in Edinburgh later this year. Early indications are that there is scope for the goat industry to improve dramatically through genetic selection. Currently, goat recording data stay on the farm, but with fewer than 40 herds producing most of the milk in the UK, an increased use of strategic AI would provide a direct economic uplift. Producers would need to be organised and committed but exploitation of the latest DNA-based technologies is a forward thinking and wholly practical development.


A major outbreak in humans, goats and sheep of Q fever (coxiella) in the Netherlands has led to more than 3,000 human cases and more than 40,000 animals culled. Rebecca Mearns (VLA Penrith) explained that over half of the human cases lived within 5km of infected goats.

Herds suffered an abortion storm with up to 60% of the does aborting. A vaccine is expected to be licensed in the UK but no increase in cases of Q fever has been detected in this country.

In 2009 an ELISA test was validated and PCR is available to test abortion samples. Even though the cause of the abortion may not be Q fever there is still a zoonotic risk where the infection is present, and increased vigilance from goat keepers and veterinary surgeons is advised for the foreseeable future.

Neurological syndrome

Investigating a neurological syndrome in growing goats by examining the brain is complicated if the animal is presented having been shot in the head. Dr Arthur Otter (VLA Shrewsbury) presented a case study from a herd of 1,900 milking goats with eight out of 50 3-4 month old kids that were recumbent, head back and not responding to antibiotics.

Subsequently four more six-monthold kids were affected and cerebrocortical necrosis was found with listerial encephalitis identified. It is likely that an excess of concentrate was implicated but the onset of symptoms can be very rapid. Quiet observation should be the first approach with possible limb effects, facial paralysis, eye flickering and blindness.

Topical forum

The meeting held a topical forum and the need to vaccinate for bluetongue was emphasised. Importation of infected pregnant cattle is seen as the greatest risk.

Nick Clayton (the hon. secretary: advised that a significant change to the TSE regulations 2010 came into force on 1st April. If a TSE, IE Scrapie, BSE or Atypical Scrapie is suspected on a dairy sheep or goat farm, milk and milk products will not be allowed to leave the farm until BSE has been ruled out on initial testing, which takes 10 working days. There is no compensation payable for milk discarded during that time.

The Goat Veterinary Society believes that the need to destroy milk until BSE has been ruled out is a measure that is totally unjustifiable, given the degree of risk involved. If a current animal under test is found to have BSE, it will only be the third case in Europe in 12 years, one case in 13 million milking goats. The new restrictions are being promoted by the French with a legal review pending.

  • The next meeting of the society is at Taunton Racecourse on 4th November

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