Goat Health Issues

Last night, our vet Lee Ann paid a visit to us to check on some issues with our goat girls. Ginger needed a recheck to insure that her respiratory infection had cleared up – it turns out she has asthma, which is a fairly common occurrence after an infection. I can relate, being asthmatic myself.

Heidi and Gidget, our oldest kids (each almost four months old), have been suffering with mud-butt the past several days. They are otherwise behaving normally – eating, drinking, peeing, and playing actively. Gidget seems to be worse off than Heidi. Lee Ann took some samples that she will be checking under the microscope to determine if they are having coccidia issues.

What’s that, you ask? Well, living in the intestinal tract of all goats are small protozoa called coccidia. Adult goats have usually developed an immune response to them such that they are only found in small numbers. However, kids have not yet developed this immunity, and if their intestinal tracts are overwhelmed by the coccidia, they develop Coccidiosis, and it must be treated. It can be fatal, and even when it is not, it can cause long-term damage to the goat.

So, we are anxiously awaiting the test results. Frequently, Coccidiosis is caused from unclean conditions, but we strive to keep their pen cleaned up every day, so I am having trouble imagining that being the trigger. I am, however, wondering if our three younger goats, who joined our herd at the start of May, could have possibly brought it in. Their first eight weeks were spent in a barn with many other adult goats – which makes me wonder if they developed an immunity at an earlier age, and have exposed Heidi and Gidget. We have had them for six weeks, however, so I’m not sure how likely that is. Many breeders will separate their kids from the adult goat population for the very reason that they do not want to expose the babies to the adult’s coccidia. Whatever the case, I am anxious to know how to proceed with our girls so that they can get back to pooping normally.

Finally, our poor little Lovie girl had to have a scur removed. The breeder had disbudded these girls at the proper time (a few days after they were born), but unfortunately, on Lovie, they didn’t get all of the cells, and so her horn continued to grow. You can see her little horn in this photo, on her left side:

Why remove the horns at all? Well, disbudding may seem cruel, however, horns can be dangerous to both the goat, their herdmates, and their humans. If a goat gets its horns stuck in a fence, it may end up hanging itself, be exposed to predators, get dehydrated, or starve to death. Or, it can end up breaking the horn off and bleeding out, as horns contain blood vessels.. If a horned goat head-butts another, it can injure or kill another member of the herd, and cause serious harm to humans, as well. So, it is a common practice to disbud the kids when they are a few days old. This is most safely done with a disbudding iron, which burns the little horn bud off, and has the advantage of cauterizing the wound. There is some pain for the poor little thing, but nothing compared to the injuries it would face later if it still had its horns. The pain only lasts a few moments. Some use an acid paste instead, but that sustains the pain for an hour or so and has the risk of getting into their eyes, ears, and other locations that it would do harm. So disbudding with the electric iron is considered the best option.

If disbudding does not occur within a few days of birth, or if a scur continues to grow, it becomes advisable to put a growing goat under anesthetic, because the procedure is going to take longer, and this not only causes them less stress, but reduces the risk that they will flail and things other than the horn will come into contact with the (extremely hot!) disbudding iron. Such was the case with Lovie last night. She was a champ through it all – goats coming back up from the anesthetic are usually a grumpy bunch, as they do not like the feeling of being drugged or drunk. But she wagged her little tail as I pet her while she gradually woke up, such a sweet little thing as she is.

I feel so badly for her today, as there was quite a bit of tissue that had to be removed – the horn and surrounding area – and so she has a big chunk out of her head, and the Blu-Kote (germicide/fungicide/healing aid) has given her quite the purple dye job. But she is running, jumping, playing, and eating like normal, so hopefully her healing is well on its way. She got a little help from Ginger this morning on our walk – the Yum Yum Bush is pretty well cleaned out on the lower limbs, so they need to stand up to get to the higher leaves. Ginger held a branch down for Lovie, see?

(Actually, Ginger was just using the branch to boost herself up.
But I like to pretend that they are really thoughtful of one another.)

Ginger does have a little hole in the base of where her horn was – which leads into her sinus cavity. So, she is blowing boogers out of her left nostril pretty well, and Lee Ann warned, they may blow out of the top of her head, too. But that’s actually helpful in the healing process, because the boogers give the new cells a good grip as they regrow all of that tissue on her head.

Keeping livestock is definitely not for the faint of heart. When your animals are having health issues, it can be really disconcerting, worrisome, and frankly, there are some pretty gross things you might need to do. But it’s all worth it, in my opinion. Our goats may not be giving us milk yet, but they sure do bring lots of smiles to me on a daily basis, even at times like this.

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4 responses to “Goat Health Issues”

  1. Lisa Avatar

    I hope they all make a speedy recoveries!

    1. Trase Avatar

      Thanks Lisa – I am hoping too. While I have the utmost of confidence in the care they receive from Lee Ann, I can’t help but be a worried mom during times like this – asking myself, “What have I done wrong?”

  2. Desiree Avatar

    “So, she is blow­ing boogers out of her left nos­tril pretty well, and Lee Ann warned, they may blow out of the top of her head, too.”

    That’s gross/awesome.

    1. Trase Avatar

      It’s going to be weird if that does happen – but apparently it will also be helpful to the healing process. I just don’t want to be in the line of fire should she sneeze!

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