*DISCLAIMER: The following information is from experience and is my own opinion, seek veterinarian advice*
The Goat Veterinary Society is the leading UK professional society associated with goat health and welfare. In joining our society you can expect information and support pertaining to goat veterinary care including: access to our forum and online journal, and support from veterinarians renown for their interest and knowledge in goat related care. – http://www.goatvetsoc.co.uk
A few months into my work with goats, I discovered the Goat Veterinary Society which is open to non-veterinarians. The student pricing is very reasonable, it helps to encourage the next generation of crazy-goat-people, to continue the work in the goat veterinary sector.
I always look forward to receiving the most recent journal in the post, to keep up to date with new goat health discoveries, studies, and the advances in the work towards better goat welfare.
For example, a case study on Golden Guernsey skin was published earlier in 2017, which my younger doe is showing. However, that is another blog post in itself, a little project of mine.
6 months into my GVS membership, I saw a week of practice with the secretary, Benjamin Dustan, in the Lake District. A week of revision in the tranquil countryside, with early morning TB tests, routine fertility visits, and goat disbudding. This was the first time I stayed away for work experience, and the first time I saw Golden Guernseys.
Who knew that 5 months later I would be putting a deposit down for my first breeding trio of GGs?
Therefore I was eager to attend the Autumn meeting, to be in a room full of professionals who inspire me to pursue my aim of becoming a caprine specialist. With the increasing number of pet goats, and the expanding goat meat and dairy industries, over time it will become a more feasible aspiration.
“Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.” – J.K. Rowling
So that brings me to 1st November, 2017.
Sporting my crazy goat lady hoodie and Golden Guernsey Goat Society tote, I travelled to Manchester Piccadilly station straight after college.
2 trains, 4 hours, an abundance of revision, and an extortionate amount of money on costa later, I arrived at Taunton station and headed to my hotel.
“I could get used to this”, I thought, as I looked around my luxurious room with an ideal study desk and complimentary coffee.
The hotel was being taken over by GVS, shoutout to the receptionist for making my day who said, and I quote, “You look like one of the goat herd. No offence.”
No offence taken.
2nd November, 2017
After a productive early morning study session, I headed down to catch up with Meg and Damo from Moat Goats. Hearing that Fred, if you have read my kidding blogs you will know who he is, was now thriving made me very excited for my trip to Wales over the Christmas period for a reunion!
Lambing and kidding are both incredibly fulfilling experiences, saving lives, but hearing about the progress these young stock have made is indescribable.
The first presentation of the day was by Laura Deeming, a pHD student from New Zealand studying hoof health in dairy goats.
Gaining an insight into the management of dairy goats in New Zealand was interesting, there is a significantly different system in comparison to the UK.
72 farms with a total of 50,000 goats- a co-op.
I learnt that the majority of the goats are found in the Waikato region, that is now on my bucket list for my gap year.
Two significant differences between the UK and NZ are the bedding and feeding choices.
Whilst straw is the typical bedding in the United Kingdom, shavings are used in New Zealand.
Due to the co-op regulations, it is compulsory that 75% of the diet is fresh forage/silage.
New Zealand has a Welfare Code for Goats, as well as a DGC Farm Code of Practice.
Therefore it is intriguing to compare lameness in the UK and NZ, and to utilise the global pioneering knowledge to improve caprine lameness.
Lameness is not a case of simply health implications, there are behavioural and economic impacts.
For example, the lying behaviour is a serious welfare issue as the lack of mobility prevents the goat from feeding, thus affects its nutritional intake.
In addition to this, there are marked effects on the social interactions within a herd, and prevent goats from expressing natural behaviour.
Statistics showed that lame does have a lower milk yield, consequently this has a knock-on economic effect on commercial herds.
Laura emphasised the importance of identifying goat lameness in the early stages. We all know the saying that prevention is better than cure. This will decrease the number of chronic lameness cases whilst highlighting to goat owners that using a lameness scoring technique will show that we underestimate the prevalence of lameness within a herd. It was shocking to hear that commercial dairy goat farmers, in her pHD studies, underestimated the lameness in their herd by x2.5.
This raised a simple question- why?
There are a wide range of reasons that a goat breeder will form such a skewed perception of herd health. From the financial and labour constraints to identify the goats with a slightly abnormal gait, to the perception of how lameness presents due to picture we can have in our mind of what lameness is.
Another reason was simply GOATS RUNNING.
We often see our livestock during feeding or milking- the animals have a goal in sight to run to. Their gait may appear ‘normal’ and lameness can be masked.
To reinforce these ideas, Laura showed us a range of videos from a goat with an abnormal gait due to laminitis, to an obvious hind leg limp that is easily identified.
It was therefore interesting to learn about the statistical significance of adding an ‘uneven gait’ category to lameness scoring.
50% of the goats in the study were originally in the ‘normal’ score until their uneven gait was acknowledged in the 5 point categorical test. 50% if the herd’s onset of lameness may have been left unidentified until it progressed, this acute lameness (e.g. in the case of acute laminitis) can become chronic.
There is a wide range of causes of lameness, from bacterial to nutritional. Lameness susceptibility also varies between breeds e.g. the Boers are not adapted to the clay-rich soils of rainy Lancashire, hence the high incidence of foot scald and necessity for routine zinc sulphate baths in the herd I work with. Similarly, due to factors including disease control, there are limitations to providing a natural environment so goats are not naturally wearing their hooves down.
The different factors combined may enable bacterial issues to manifest in the hoof and consequently cause lameness. As previously highlighted, there are significant welfare implications to this. As goat breeders, we are literally working against the elements.
Therefore, in order to successfully treat and control lameness within our herds, it is important to be aware of the multitude of causes to come to an accurate diagnosis. Hoof trimming and terramycin spray is not going to resolve underlying metabolic problems.
Disease of the Goat outlines the preliminary stages of lameness diagnosis during a clinical examination.
- Weight bearing
- Stiff, painful, or abnormal gait
- Obvious wounds/swelling
- Clean/trim feet where necessary
Radiography and ultrasonography are used in further assessments.
Interdigital dermatitis (foot scald), and foot rot are the two infectious causes of lameness that I have treated- particularly in Boers.
Removing the excess hoof can become a problem rather than a solution as I first anticipated. The reasons for this are that overzealous trimming can unbalance the weight distribution. Additionally, a disinfectant should be used between goats otherwise the hoof trimmers will be spreading the bacteria.
I am less familiar with non-infectious diseases of the goat hoof. However, large animal veterinary work experience was an eye opener to the equine cases of white line disease and laminitis.
Weak pasterns, trauma, luxations, nerve damage, osteoarthritis, caprine arthritis encephalitis… the list goes on.
This highly informative presentation really caught my interest due to the research being done in New Zealand on when to first trim a kid’s hooves. The studies are using growth of hoof, heel integrity, fetlock integrity, and shape, to grade hoof condition.
I look forward to reading about the results in the future.
There are marked differences between castration legislation and practices between the UK and the USA.
Although banding without anaesthesia for a goat breeder is illegal after 7 days, it is associated with increased urinary calculi risk due to the inhibited development of the urethra, the diameter is smaller so urethral blockage (particularly in the sigmoid lecture or urethral process) is a danger.
However, the prevalence of urolithiasis will also depend on the goat herd management practices. Whether (get it?) that is due to the culling of dairy billy kids or meat kids being sent to slaughter once they reach 40kg- that is my own speculation. Thanks to all of the kind offers from US goat farmer groups, I will be working on goat farmers over there so can experience the differences we talked about.
Although the symptoms of collicing and straining are the same for the different types of stones, they require different treatments.
Every goat owner knows that the 2:1 calcium to phosphorous ratio is particularly important for their male goats. But not every goat owner knows that ammonium chloride is not the always the solution for uroliths.
Ammonium chloride can treat struvite stones, which are a type of phosphatic calculi. They are magnesium ammonium phosphate stones, caused by grain-based diets.
Other types of stones are calcium carbonate (caused by a high calcium diet), calcium phosphate, and calcium oxalate (caused by ingestion of plants such as rhubarb and spinach).
I learnt a lot about diagnosing urolithiasis in goats, in such a short amount of time. I am going to summarise and revise this information.
- Failure to urinate
- Dry prepuce
- ‘Out-stretched’ posturing
- Bloating (note to goat owners, that this is not always a gastro-intestinal problem)
- Goats will become vocal and restless as opposed to becoming depressed
As I have seen veterinarians use xylazine (muscle relaxant/sedative) in a mixture for disbudding anaesthesia, it was intriguing to hear that it is in fact a diuretic so should be avoided during the diagnostic process of in suspected urolithiasis cases.
Diazepam can be used safely for radiographs and ultrasounds. Ultrasound scans enable a vet to see if the bladder is leaking, in which case the goat will be PTS and surgery is not an option.
Non-invasive approach to treating urolithiasis using antispasmodic (Buscopan) and Diazepam for short-term relief.
The options include:
Tube Cystotomy, perineal urethrostomy, and marsipulisation.
However, the latter will cause urine scald and bladder infections, they are not ideal for pet goats only for salvaging livestock for slaughter.
Poison in goats
The next speaker was from VPIS, which stands for the Veterinary Poisons Information Service, who was providing the statistics behind goat poisoning from the service.
Over the years, 58% of logged goat poisoning cases in the VPIS have been due to poison.
I have been reading a booklet on poisonous plants that I purchased from one of the goat society websites, so it was a great opportunity to expand on my basic knowledge.
There are few antidotes for goats, so the two strand treatment of gut decontamination and supportive care are crucial.
Soon after ingestion, activated charcoal can be used to decontaminate the gut. Otherwise, another option is rumenotomy which is a surgical technique of making an incision into the rumen to retrieve ingested foreign bodies.
Supportive care includes rehydration, pain relief, and management of complications, which is a general overview for many different cases of disease, not just poison.
I am sure that everyone knows that I currently have 3 goats.
So it is no surprise that I was intrigued by the “How to treat the goat that is really the family dog” presentation title.
Veterinarians need to adapt different approaches when treating pet animals, and commercial livestock. Although pet/commercial goats do not differ by law as food producing animals and have the same medication restrictions, they have different economic and emotional values.
The initial clinical examination should be the same.
However, pet goat owners are more likely to explore the different additional diagnostic procedures. These include:
Skin scrapes (Dermatitis/ectoparasites)
Ultrasound + X-ray
and should be discussed with owners.
Another marked difference between communication with goat farmers v pet goat owners, may the level of knowledge.
Adorable viral videos of Pygmy kids jumping across a barn… they’re just like a puppy… right?
Inexperience can lead to life-threatening problems.
Incorrect nutrition (e.g. overfeeding or inappropriate diet) can lead to arthritis, urolithiasis, intoxication… just to state a few.
Small, permanent pastures give rise to endoparasite issues, exacerbated by other species grazing together.
In the vet’s clinical experience, the ‘common’ pet goat problems were…
3) Skin problems (ectoparasites/idiopathic)
4) Intoxications (Rhododendron/acorns)
We were presented with different veterinary cases and had to come to our own conclusions in the next step of diagnosis or treatment.
For example, a goat was wasting away but otherwise there were no other issues on initial clinical examination.
Elderly goats, like any animals, will develop teeth problems. Missing molars are particularly problematic because hooks will form on the opposite molar as they are not being worn down. Food will get stuck in the disasternas, which may lead to infection.
A few hundred pounds for molar removal, definitely a pet goat case.
Where is the line drawn?
For example with arthritis. Will the pet goat owner want the goat on high doses of medication (that the organs can cope with) to increase comfort. Or is this inhumane, to extend the suffering?
As I have seen veterinary practice on large commercial herds as well as at homes for pet goats, it was interesting to listen to veterinarians discuss their experiences of cases and sharing their opinions on these problems.
A veterinary group shared their research into whether Johne’s disease vaccinations and the problems following, such as culling falsely positive goats.
Optimising the milking system
Optimising the milking system means to milk quickly, completely, safely, whilst minimising adverse effects on the teats.
This is implemented by having the correct: routine, ergonomics, and operating equipment.
The many purposes of a milking routine include:
-To detect and control mastitis
-Teat stimulation and milk let down
Thanks to goats’ cleanliness as a result of having a more solid slurry consistency and having straw bedding, means that cleaning soiled teats is an easier job.
However, it is easy to overlook that the goat’s udders should be clipped, to avoid milk contamination resulting in a higher milk quality.
Benefits of cleaning teats and teat stimulation means that they are milked more quickly, reducing the low milk flow period so therefore the time the clusters are attached. Thus improving teat end conditions.
Now to throw a scientific spanner in the works.
Alveoli require oxytocin to allow milk let down, and 70% of a cow’s milk is alveolar. This differs, however, between species.
Nearly 80% of a goat’s milk is cisternal so the instant the cluster is placed, milk will flow.
Goats only require stimulation for 20% of their milk let down.
As a result, it is more difficult to encourage teat preparation.
The purpose is for teat cleanliness!
All vital information for me to know when I milk my does next year.
Antibiotics: the Dutch method
The Dutch Antibiotic Resistance Policy is part of the One Health approach.
‘Aim of One Health:
To improve health and well-being through the prevention of risks and the mitigation of effects of crises that originate at the interface between humans, animals and their various environments.’ – http://www.onehealthglobal.net/what-is-one-health/
The vet described that in 2008 there was a low human use of antibiotics, contrasting with the high vet use. Political and social pressures meant that the reliability of veterinarians was at stake.
Fearing that politicians would impose rules and regulations, veterinarians took the step forward to take control of their fate.
The 2009 goals were to reduce antibiotic use in veal, cattle, pigs, and poultry, 20% by 2011, and 50% by 2013.
The strategies were:
1) No preventative
2) No whole flock/herd/barn administrations
3) No standard dry cow antibiotic therapy
4) Specific antibiotics banned or restricted
The KNMvD produced antibiotic guidelines e.g. if mastitis caused by A -> treat with B.
They also enforced a 1-1 farmer-vet contract approach. This significantly reduced the ability to ‘shop around’ for antibiotics.
In order to receive antibiotics, farmers need a completed annual farm treatment plan and farm health plan.
All drug sales go to a central database, then to a benchmark authority, where DDR (daily dose rate) is calculated.
Antibiotics are grouped into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice. Vets will only carry 1st choice antibiotics on call, these will be antibiotics on the treatment plan. For example, oxytetracycline and penicillin.
2nd choice antibiotics have a “no, unless..” principle.
These will be for a specific animal/group.
Once the course is done, any excess antibiotics have to be discarded.
They will only be on the farm treatment plan with decent veterinary registration of the issue.
3rd choice antibiotics will never be on the farm treatment plan and will only be dispensed with an antibiogram. The example given was resistant E-Coli mastitis.
So, what does this mean in practice?
Paperwork, a lot of paperwork.
Education, the nurses need to be just as aware as the vets and the farmers.
Biannual audits for farmers, vets, and vet practices.
Vets have to have proof, they are no longer able to prescribe medication as ‘hours worked’, their career will be placed in jeopardy.
Vets will be penalised if they do not deliver farm health plans to standard or if they are constantly over the ‘action level’ of prescribing i.e. the red line on the benchmark graphs.
Some large dairy co-ops or organic farmers, will have regulations that demand even higher commitment to reducing antibiotic usage.
Although there was a 50% reduction in antibiotics by 2012, with the use of 3rd choice antibiotics reducing by 90%, there has also been an increased use of vaccination and emphasis on obtaining the optimum immunity through nutrition and breeding. As a result, farmers have made management changes, this has aided the national schemes to eradicate Johne’s, salmonella, BVD and IBR.
Goats are not currently covered by the policy, but dairy goat farms have started a similar voluntary system. The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice policy and requirement to be ‘under a vet’, however, are the same.
I cannot wait for next year, to attend the 2018 GVS meeting, whilst on my gap year!