Dealing with diseases in goats

As livestock farming becomes more intensive, greater health problems will inevitably occur, increasing animal health costs on farms, warns Johan Steyn from Boer Goats SA.

Dealing with diseases in goats
Inoculating with a polyvalent inactivated vaccine will immunise against a number of clostridial infections.
Photo: Courtesy of Johan Steyn
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The natural resistance of the Boer goat should be harnessed to overcome health challenges, rather than overdoing treatments not required in a specific area. To achieve this, follow the recommendations below:

Cull animals that suffer chronically from various diseases and use selective breeding practices to improve overall disease resistance.

Manage ticks, flies, midges and lice through dipping and combining rotational grazing practices with a dipping programme. This interrupts their life cycles, reducing external parasite load.

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Treat animals only when they need it. Treating too often may lead to parasites developing resistance to antiparasitic drugs and negatively influence farming costs. Consult a vet for accurate advice here.

Be a hands-on farmer and observe your animals. This way, you are likely to notice parasite threats earlier and take the necessary action.

Internal parasites weaken the overall condition of animals. Severe infestations can negatively affect libido, maternal ability, milk production, kid growth rate and overall disease resistance. Weight gain is also negatively affected due to a reduction in the animal’s roughage intake. All animals suffer from internal parasites.

For one thing, intensively grazed pasture builds up high parasite loads. Once again, rotational grazing practices will break their life cycles. Deworm your Boer goats for roundworm three weeks after the first spring rain. Thereafter, do it only when needed. (The FAMACHA system is particularly effective.)

If the goats graze near damp or wet areas, treat them for liver fluke. In irrigated pasture, administer a broad-spectrum dewormer regularly. Kids up to two months of age should be dosed each month for milk tapeworm. A vet can assist with a faecal egg count to determine the specific treatment your animals require.

Inoculating with a polyvalent-inactivated vaccine will immunise the goats against a number of clostridial infections. Vaccinate the kids from two months of age. Before this, they will have inherited immunity from the colostrum of vaccinated does.

Carry out this annual vaccination six to eight weeks before the breeding season. Most of the following are covered: pulpy kidney, red gut, malignant oedema, gas gangrene, necrotic hepatitis, black quarter, tetanus, bacillary dysentery, enterotoxaemia and pastuerella. Boer goats should also be treated preventatively for:

Adminuister Brucella inoculation to kids three to four months of age. This will safeguard them against brucellosis for life.

Enzootic abortion
Inoculate annually at least eight weeks before mating. (Women who are pregnant or of child-bearing age must not handle this vaccine as accidental contact can lead to sterility or abortion.)

Corynebacterium ovis
Vaccination is not always effective in the short term, so consistent administration is crucial. If abscesses appear, cut them open, drain them into a receptacle and disinfect the wound. Do this a distance from other goats. Burn the receptacle and its contents afterwards.

Scabby mouth
Scabby mouth, which is highly contagious, appears as warts in the mouth and on lips, ears and hooves, preventing the animal from foraging. Separate it from the herd and give it soft feed until recovery. Mix two-thirds liquid paraffin and one-third tincture of iodine into milking salve and apply as a paste two to three times per day until sores disappear.

Rift Valley fever

This normally occurs after a wet, rainy season. Signs occur very rapidly and may include an abortion storm, sudden death of lambs up to six days old, fever, nasal discharge, diarrhoea and vomiting. If any of these appear, notify a state vet immediately.

Cleanliness is important

When treating an outbreak of disease, use a new needle on every animal if you can afford to; this prevents cross infection. In any event, needles should be replaced every 10 to 15 animals as they become blunt and the chances of introducing secondary infection increases.

All medicines must be kept out of direct sunlight. Never store them in a hot vehicle or break the cold chain. Follow the storage instructions, keeping vaccine refrigerated until needed and then transferring it to a cooler box when moving to the veld or pens.

Do not combine vaccines as this reduces the efficacy of each one. Any vaccine that remains after animals are treated should be discarded and not re-used. After treatment, immediately wash all equipment with hot, soapy water.

Contact Johan Steyn by visiting