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How to Keep Your Goats Healthy

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How to Keep Your Goats Healthy
Photo © Flickr user Pmarkham, used with a CCC license

So, you've got a small, starter herd of goats, and you want to make sure that you stay on top of any potential problems and keep your goats healthy and strong. While healthy goats are easy to keep that way, sick goats can take a lot of attention and time to restore to health, so prevention is the best way to go when you're a goat farmer.

Establish Vet Care

As a small farmer who raises livestock, you will want to find a farm veterinarian to help you when your animals need treatment or care. It's obviously best to establish a relationship with a vet before you bring your animals home. When you talk to a possible vet, make sure to ask if their expertise includes goats, because some vets may not have worked with them before.

Vaccinations

If you're going to have kids on your goat farm, they should begin life drinking the colostrum - a thick, rich substance the doe produces for several days after birth. This provides them with an initial dose of immunity. Check with your vet for specific vaccinations your kids may need. Typically, they are vaccinated for Enterotoxemia and tetanus at two months of age with an all-in-one shot called the CD/T vaccine. After the initial dose, schedules may vary.

Depending on your local conditions, your goats may need supplements with selenium and/or copper. Consult with your local vet or county extension service to find out what your goats may need.

Common Causes of Illness and Injury in Goats

These are some common reasons that goat farmers end up with sick goats. Learn how it happens so you can prevent it from every occurring on your small farm.

  • Overeating. If allowed to eat grain freely, goats will often overdo it. Gorging on grain changes the pH in the rumen, which can cause all kinds of nasty digestive issues, from bloat to acidosis to enterotoxemia. High-fiber diets like hay, bark, and leaves are key to keeping goats' digestive systems happy. Minimize supplemental feeding whenever possible. Read more about feeding goats.

  • Poisonous plants. Before you get goats, make sure you inspect your land for any possible poisonous forage. Some common plants that are poisonous to goats include nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers - the leaves and stems, tomato fruits are fine), oleanders, and rhododendrons.

  • Stress. Don't underestimate the effects of stress - travel, routine changes, diet changes, or environment changes - on your goats. If your goats aren't doing well, consider what might be going on that's stressful to them.

  • Predator protection. Predators aren't always coyotes. Neighborhood dogs, or your own pet, can pose a threat to your goats. Make sure that fences are secure not only for the goats, but for anything trying to gain access. Socialize your dogs carefully around goats, or consider a livestock guardian dog or dogs that is trained to protect your farm animals.

What's more, goats can hurt your dogs, too. A powerful head butt can break a dog's bones. And believe me, it can also send a puppy flying ten feet into the air! (Luckily, our puppy was fine. But don't mess with a buck in heat!)

Foot Care

Goats need to have their hooves trimmed fairly often. The exact schedule varies depending on the terrain of your farm and how active your partciular goats are, anywhere from bimonthly to four times a year.

Give your goats something yummy to munch on while you trim, and try to make hoof trimming a positive or at least neutral experience for your goats.

Goat Diseases

There are a number of issues and diseases that befall goats, just like any animal kept for livestock. Consult with your vet if you have any questions about whether your animals are suffering with one of these. And make sure that you ask any potential breeder about the incidence of these diseases in their herd when you buy a goat.

Here is a short list of the most common goat diseases to know about:

  • Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE). This can be tested for and you should only buy goats from a CAE-free herd.
  • Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL).You should purchase CL-free goats. Be warned that the test is sometimes said to be inaccurate.
  • Coccidiosis.
  • Pink eye.
  • Enterotoxemia.
  • G-6-S.
  • Sore mouth, aka Orf.
  • Urinary calculi.
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