Goats – health

Information about disease prevention and signs of illness in goats.

Administering treatments

Approved activities Category
water 2
topical — udder 3
topical — backline 3
topical —spray 3
topical —dip 3
topical — jetting 3
oral — drench 3
oral — capsules 3
injection — subcutaneous* 3
injection — intramuscular 3
injection — intramammary 3
implant — vaginal 3
implant — subcutaneous 3

* exception Johne’s Disease vaccination (see below Vaccinations)

Goats need to be protected against internal and external parasites and pathogenic and metabolic diseases. The risks will vary depending on the stock type, geographic location, stocking rates, frequency of stock movement and seasonal weather conditions. Treatments and vaccines should be administrated in accordance with directions and records should be kept. Disease control and parasite control programs should be developed in consultation with a veterinarian.

Effective disease protection involves undertaking regular preventative measures such as vaccination, worming and monitoring. Goats are particularly susceptible and vulnerable to parasites and disease. Therefore special care should be taken when caring for goats to maintain a high level of hygiene in goat pens, sheds and milking areas in order to have successful disease and parasite control. Washing floors regularly, cleaning water and feed containers, controlling insects, rats and mice and keeping all bedding clean and dry will help prevent infection. Sick animals must be separated from the rest of the herd immediately.

Effective parasite and disease protection involves the development and documentation of routine control measures, including:

  • Worming: Worm counts can easily build up in small herds especially if paddock rotation is limited. The entire herd should be regularly wormed/drenched with extra treatments for individuals if scouring, wasting or high egg counts occur. A worming program should be constructed with the help of a veterinarian. New goats being brought onto the property need to be thoroughly examined, worming history checked and quarantined to prevent introducing parasites to the herd. Where goats are penned, faeces must be cleaned very regularly and area must be kept dry and well ventilated. In general goats do not develop the level of immunity to internal parasites that has been documented in cattle and sheep. For this reason the management of worms even in adult goats with high condition scores needs to be at a very high standard.
  • Vaccinations: Veterinarians can provide advice on vaccination regimes that are appropriate to the age and class of goats in particular locations. In general, the first vaccination is given to kids at 6-8 weeks with a booster four weeks later and then annually. Goat vaccinations control and prevent cheesy gland, enterotoxaemia (pulpy kidney), tetanus, black disease, malignant oedema and blackleg in both adults and kids. Goats require regular revaccination at 6 monthly intervals to maintain effective immunity against enterotoxaemia.

While the administration of subcutaneous vaccinations are a category 3 activity the exception is for vaccination to prevent Ovine Johne’s Disease (OJD). Students must not administer the Gudair vaccine as it is harmful if it is accidentally injected to humans and great care must be taken to ensure the correct administration site on the animal. It must be administered subcutaneously, high on the neck, below the base of the ear. Further information is available at the Gudair vaccine – User safety information

  • Footrot prevention: This is best achieved by inspection and isolation of incoming stock and foot maintenance including paring and bathing hooves to eliminate bacteria. Regular trimming is essential.
  • Control mastitis: In dairy goat herds, carry out the Mastitis Control Program recommended by NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Flystrike is not a major problem in goats however it can affect those breeds of goats used for fibre production such as angoras and cashmeres. When keeping these breeds of goats that are susceptible to flystrike, the same preventative and treatment methods used with sheep can be used on goats.

These goats can be crutched to remove the fibre and faeces collection around their rear. This reduces the risk of fly strike as there is less habitat for flies to lay their eggs in. Goats can also get flystruck around their horns. This especially occurs in bucks that get injuries around their horns from fighting. More information can be found at Flyboss and Flystrike in Sheep and Goats or from your local veterinarian or veterinary chemical suppliers.

Whenever chemicals are used including drenches, vaccines and back-line treatments, care must be taken about the following:

  • Reading all labels
  • Maintaining appropriate storage
  • Adhering to withholding periods
  • Determining the weight of the animals to be treated
  • Determining the correct dose rate
  • Using protective clothing if required
  • Using the correct equipment for application
  • Disposal of chemical containers
  • Documenting the dose, chemical name, batch number, expiry date, withholding period, Identity of animal(s) administered to and date of administration.

Signs of illness

Herd health should be monitored at least daily. Young kids require more frequent monitoring as they can dehydrate quickly.

A sick goat may display signs of:

  • Disorientation
  • Lethargy
  • Changed feeding habits
  • Scouring
  • Nervousness
  • Discharging
  • Separation from or lagging behind the main body of the flock
  • Lameness
  • Ill-thrift or wasting
  • Abnormal gait or reluctance to rise.

Goats failing to thrive or grow is also a sign of illness. Common ailments include; mastitis, bloat, internal parasites, footrot and flystrike.

Mastitis can be a common problem, particularly in dairy goats. Goats can show obvious signs of in their milk (clinical mastitis) or their milk may appear normal but their udder may be infected with the causal bacteria (subclinical mastitis). As many of the signs of mastitis and control methods in goats are similar to those seen in dairy cows, advice can be found through Dairy Australia/Mastitis.

If unable to identify the problem and begin suitable treatment, assistance should be sought from a veterinarian who has experience with goats. Any illness identified and treatments given must be recorded appropriately.


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