Goat Health
Goat Health


Goat Health is a massive and important topic, and it cannot logically be treated separately from all aspects of goat management and welfare.
What follows below are some "answers" to a selection of basic "questions", and also advice about how to learn more.

How do I keep my goat healthy?
How can I keep my goat's feet healthy?
How can I limit the effect of worms in my goats?
How often should I worm my goats?
How often should I change the wormer I am using?
How soon can I use the milk after worming the goats?
Can my goats be vaccinated and can I inject my own goats?
How often should I vaccinate my goats?
Will they have a reaction?
What other things might I have to look for as routine?
Are goats born without horns?
What is CAEV?
How is the CAEV virus spread?
How often should I test my goat herd for CAEV?
What is the level of infection of goats with CAEV in the UK?
How can I find out more about Foot and Mouth Disease?
What is Scrapie?

How do I keep my goat healthy?

Alert, inquisitive, bright eyes and a clean noseClose observation of your herd is essential to help you to learn what is "normal", and since some illnesses have a gradual onset being able to spot the slightest change in an individual goat will enable you to act promptly and prevent any risk there may be to herd health as a whole.

Observe and ask yourself daily:

Is the goat alert and inquisitive, with bright eyes and a clean nose?

Is the appetite normal?

Is the goat drinking water?

Are the droppings, firm and pelleted, is the urine a normal colour?

Has the milk yield changed suddenly?

Are there any changes in the udder, in milk-texture, taste, color or smell?

Is the coat silky and shiny and the skin smooth?

Examine your goats, using your hands, regularly in good light, are there any signs of swelling or injury?

Does the goat stand comfortably on all four feet and walk with equal weight on each foot?

Record daily any observed variations from normal. By law you must keep a record of all injections and medications given to your goats, these can be recorded on different pages in the same book or on a BGS Medicine Record Sheet. Check with your vet regarding withdrawal times of milk and/or meat for that medication. Enter in your records when the milk/meat withdrawal period ends.

Comparison with other goats in the herd is sound practice (since a hot day, for example, may alter the respiration rate of a number of goats in the herd).

A Clinical thermometer and a watch with a second's hand are required.

Temperature is taken by gentle insertion of the clinical thermometer in the goat's anus for a minute, with the goat well secured.

Heart rate is taken by placing each hand either side of the goat's chest low down behind, and close to, its elbows.

Respiration rate is taken by observation of movement of the goat's chest and flanks.

Rumen movement is checked by gently pressing a fist into the goat's left hand side midway between the ribs and the goat's thigh.

Practice the technique of doing all the above. Reporting these four key observations can help your vet help your goats.


How can I keep my goat's feet healthy?

Keep the goat's feet dry for most of the time and keep the goat's feet moving on firm, but not abrasive, surfaces. It is essential to keep the goat's feet trimmed on a very regular basis to remove excess growth.

Foot care is a task that one can readily learn from an experienced shepherd or goatkeeper. Most Societies will be happy to help. The technique may differ but the end result must be the same and cause minimum discomfort to you and your goat.

To carry out foot trimming procedures you will require:

A pair of hoof trimming shears and a knife with a short blade (7.5 cm. is sufficient). Each of the tools should be kept very sharp.

A pair of gloves to protect your hands when trimming the feet (from accidental cuts).

An antibiotic purple spray, obtained from your vet, to spray the hoof should you cause accidental bleeding of the foot.

Removal of extra hoof growth with sharp trimming shears You need to tie up the goat with a collar or halter tied short, with the goat standing against a wall or fence, so that it can be moved round to attend to the feet on each side of the goat in turn. The goat will lean against the wall when having its feet trimmed on the side away from the wall, and it cannot circle away from you.
Start by trimming a front foot, lifting it close to the goat's side and with as minimum a lift as possible.

Clean off any excess dirt and other material from the base of the hoof with the pointed end of the trimming shears. (see photograph above)

Remove any horn, which may be growing over the foot with the trimming shears. Cut the horn level with the sole all the way round.

Level the heels with the sharp knife, lowering them if necessary, but removing a little at a time.

Carefully pare the sole using the sharp knife to match the new heel level. Remove a little at a time and stop if the sole begins to become pink. Work from the heel towards the toe.

The foot should then look as in the photograph below.

Hoof after being trimmedIn badly overgrown feet the sole may have degenerated and become crumbly. Scrape off such tissue and spray the foot with the antibiotic spray.

After trimming a front foot move to the back foot on the same side, facing with your head away from the goat's head, bend over and lift the goat's foot, again not too high. Then proceed as the front foot. Turn the goat around and repeat the process.


How can I limit the effect of worms in my goats?

Worm infection can be limited by grazing management, together with minimal anthelmintic treatment.
Maintain safe grazing, particularly for kids. Safe grazing is pasture that was not grazed by goats or sheep in the second half of the previous year or pasture ungrazed until mid-July when over wintered larvae have died off.
Delay grazing animals until over wintered larvae on the pasture have died off mid-July.
If safe grazing is available in the spring, worm in the spring at kidding time, worm again in June and move onto safe pasture.
If no safe pasture is available, worm in the spring at kidding time, then worm every 3 weeks from spring to autumn.


How often should I worm my goats?

You should use the minimum number of treatments to control the worms on your holding. Overuse of anthelmintics is expensive and also selects for resistant worms. Wherever possible a combination of safe grazing and strategic anthelmintic dosing should be used. Your veterinary surgeon can advise you on correct use of anthelmintics.

How often should I change the wormer I am using?

Although there are many different anthelmintics available, there are only three different families of anthelmintic available:
When changing anthelmintics it is important to change from one family of wormers to another.
It is not sufficient to change between members of the same family. It is also important to correctly estimate the weight of the goat. Goats can be weighed while at shows in cattle markets or weigh bands can be used. Consult you vet over the correct dosing rates for goats which are higher than those for sheep and cattle.

How soon can I use the milk after worming the goats?

Because most anthelmintics are not specifically licensed for use in milking goats in the UK, there is a minimum milk withholding time, before the milk can be used for human consumption, of 7 days for all the wormers currently on sale. Oramec is licensed for use in goats but has a minimum withholding time of 14 days.
Strategic worming of goats in late pregnancy, shortly after kidding or just before shows will help to reduce the loss of revenue from discarding of milk.

Can my goats be vaccinated & can I inject my own goats?

Yes, routine vaccination by subcutaneous injection (under the skin), whatever the size of your herd, should be carried out to help prevent diseases caused by:

Clostridial bacteria, in particular enterotoxaemia (Pulpy Kidney Disease)


Most goatkeepers and farmers become very efficient in injecting their own goats but it is always best if you have never done this before to ask an experienced goatkeeper or your vet to show you how to do this - it can be quite a daunting task to undertake for the first time.
A clear demonstration and explanation of how to give both subcutaneous injections intramuscular injections and other veterinary procedures is given by John Matthews BVMS MRCVS in the video "Goat Husbandry and Health" with Hilary Matthews.
There is only one vaccine against clostridial bacteria and tetanus licensed for use in goats in the UK, a 4 in 1 vaccine, "Lambivac" marketed by Hoechst.

Will they have any reaction?

Lumps can occur after vaccination injections that may take 6 - 12 months to disappear. Abscesses due to, dirty needles and a lack of hygienic preparation can occur. Prepare all your equipment prior to starting to vaccinate your goats. In order to ensure a sterile dose for each goat insert a needle into the bottle of vaccine and attach the syringe draw out the amount of vaccine and detach the syringe attaching a new needle for each dose so you only puncture the dispensing bottle once. You must ensure the safe disposal of any needles, syringes and left over medication.


What other things might I have to look for as routine?

All goats should be checked for lice. They can cause tremendous irritation to your goats and damage to the skin, hair and cause anaemia. Suspect lice if your goat is abnormally fidgety and and has a dull scruffy coat. The lice can be seen with the naked eye. Pour-on products have been used with success but there are no licensed products for use on milking animals. Discuss treatment with your veterinary surgeon. This subject is covered in various books such as, 'Outline Of Clinical Diagnosis in the Goat' and 'All about Goats'. Up to date information may be obtained from the Goat Veterinary Society.


Are goats born without horns?

Yes, but in most goats the horn starts to grow in a few days, starting with a horn bud (which may be felt in newly born kids). Relatively few goats in the UK are naturally hornless.

Disbudding is highly recommended and can, in the UK, only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon and the "patient" must be anaesthetized. A hot disbudding iron is briefly applied to the horn bud. This should be done between 2 and 7 days of age. In some breeds, Angoras and Boers for example, the goats are often not disbudded: dairy breeds are disbudded.


What is CAEV?

Caprine arthritis encephalitis is a viral disease of goats that can be detected by a blood test that demonstrates antibody presence. The eventual clinical effects of the disease are devastating on both animal welfare and economical grounds. Infection can also however be relatively mild and easily missed, particularly in the early stages.

Swollen knees and poor condition It is essential to keep your goats clear of the virus. The upper image shows a French Chamois�e milker showing some advanced signs of CAE.

These are acute loss of condition, painful knee joint arthritis and an indurative mastitis. The lower image shows a French Chamois�e with extremely misshapen udder and, though difficult to appreciate on a photograph, an udder that was as hard as wood. The udders on these animals did not feel as if they belong to a living thing.

A hard and misshapen udder It is important not to underestimate the disease and the economic cost it could have on your herd's production of either milk or fibre. Once a goat is infected it remains so for life. The virus can hide within its host going undetected. The reason for this being that the antibody in the blood can fluctuate, which can mean that infected goats may not test positive. This is why regular blood tests must be carried out to keep out the disease the virus can cause. There may be no swollen knees, no lung infection and no hard, wooden, udders until you find your herd with these very visible symptoms of the disease and in an almost impossible position, just like some of the French goat farmers did in the late 80's when it was found that in some instances they had an infection rate of 100%, and with no alternative but to cull hard, which reduced the average age of the herd to 2.5 years old.


How is the CAE virus spread?

Colostrum and Milk - The highest risk comes from colostrum and milk. The practise of feeding pooled milk and colostrum to kids has been shown to be a major vehicle for the fast and widespread transmission of infection in herds where infected does are present, the problem being that you may not know if any animals are infected. It is considered that even in a bucket that has previously contained infected milk and not washed out thoroughly that this may be sufficient to spread the virus.

Mating - Infection can be transmitted at mating although it is said that the male is more likely to be infected by the female. However, it would not be worth the risk of using a male of unknown health status.

Lateral Transmission - In trials it has been shown that transmission of the virus has occurred when goats have been kept in close contact over a period of time.

Blood - This would seem to be of a lower risk route of infection than milk. Tattooing ears, injections and taking blood samples are all potential sources of blood transfer between goats unless precautions are taken to prevent it.


How do I have my goats tested for CAEV?

Make an appointment with your Vet to take blood samples for CAEV. For your records, for showing, and to join the BGS Monitored Herd you must use the BGS Blood submission forms. These can be downloaded before hand so that you can have the parts, which you should fill in prior to your vet's visit, completed, saving you and your vet time and hopefully your money.

All goats must be identified individually with a permanent mark, such as a tattoo earmark as required by the BGS for registration. SAC technician testing blood samples

Your vet will send away the blood samples for testing to a laboratory where currently in the UK the test being used to confirm CAE is the AGIDT.
The BGS has negotiated a reduced rate for testing blood samples for members and affiliated members with SAC. Ask your vet to send blood samples to the address displayed below.