Reviewing the ‘survivability’ of goats - Veterinary Practice
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Reviewing the ‘survivability’ of goats

Veterinary Practice reports on some of the papers presented at the latest meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society

THE Goat Veterinary Society (GVS)
has a reputation for involving
students and new graduates and
Rachel Simmons, a final-year
student at Edinburgh, presented the
results of a survey on survivability
and longevity in commercial goat
herds, during its latest meeting.

There is a lack of data about
milking goats and four herds with an
average of 1,800 milking does made
their data available. The data were taken
at face value and differed in detail
between herds but do
provide an indication with
which other records can be

The two most common
causes of kid mortality
found were pneumonia and
diarrhoea with peak losses between
March and July. The mean culling age
within the adults was 4.5 years but there
were a significant number of older
goats. Older goats were culled most
commonly for gangrenous mastitis,
mastitis and Johne’s disease.

Gangrenous mastitis also accounted
for over half of the culls in the 1-2 year
old group. Most Johne’s cases were
recorded for the 2-4 year old group but
there were few laboratory confirmations
or post mortem evidence.

Fertility and lameness were not
recorded as significant reasons for
culling but this aspect needs to be
looked at more carefully. This study is a
useful starting point and members are
seeking further information on which to
establish baseline figures that will be of
particular value in herd health planning.

Kit Cornell, a fourth-year student at
Bristol, described the findings from a
questionnaire on the occurrence of
endo- and ectoparasites and the
treatments applied. Faecal samples were
received from 13 respondents during
February 2013. These samples came
from a selection of goat herds including
hobby farmers and milking units.

Unsurprisingly, the common
endoparasites were worms and coccidia
but there were significant worm egg
counts in the samples. This was not expected in February. Post-hatching
larvae were Teladorsagia,
Trichostrongylus and Haemonchus in
roughly equal populations. Haemonchus
is not frequently encountered in goats.

Benzimidazole or ivermectin were
commonly used to worm goats with
73% of the goat keepers considering
that their choice of anthelmintics and its
use was effective. Choroptic mange was
the most common ectoparasite with a
variety of treatments used from within
large and small animal products. There are no ectoparasiticide products with a
marketing authorisation for goats. This
project has added to the general
awareness of the lack of recorded
information and efficacy data with
parasites and goats.

Nick Perkins has been involved with
goats in practice for many moons and in
his current role with the Veterinary
Defence Society he considered the
issues with prescribing for goats.

With few products available that
have a marketing authorisation,
veterinary surgeons have to apply the
cascade principle with inherent pitfalls.
Off licence use may be associated with
higher risk and this needs to be
explained to the owner. Off licence
consent forms should be considered by
practices, he said, particularly if a
product is regularly used as part of a
health plan.

Contraindications need to be
carefully considered when choosing a
medicine and the accurate weight of
goats is an issue because “they are
heavier than they look”. Withdrawal
periods with milking animals are a
practical consideration with the
increasing production of commercial
milk products.

Murray Corke from the University
of Cambridge presented an overview of
some work he is currently involved in collaboration with
seven other European
partners, and funded
by the EU. The
project is entitled
“AWIN” (animal
welfare indicators).

The routine use of
analgesics in animals
is only a fairly recent
development – mainly
within the last 20
years. Farm animals
tend to hide any signs
of pain since they
have effectively evolved as prey animals and become
vulnerable if they appear weak or ill.
Experienced stockmen can often
recognise early signs of illness and pain,
but they often cannot explain why.

Using sheep as their model, the
Cambridge team have been looking at
identifying pain biomarkers associated
with footrot and acute mastitis. Trials
involved clinical examination, laboratory
examination of samples including
blood, wool and faeces for cytokines
and other metabolites in two groups,
one of which used NSAIDs alongside
other conventional therapies.

Supporting these approaches was a
study of facial expression, particularly
ear carriage, partial closing of lids and
changes to cheek musculature, which
varied depending on severity of
discomfort. All these measurements
then contributed to an overall
composite pain score. Further
information is available at www.animal-

Overseas projects

The GVS supports some overseas
projects and Rob Ankcorn described
the work of two local projects and the
charity “Send a Cow” in Rwanda, which
also sends goats, rabbits and bees.

Following the genocide in the
country the soil has become
impoverished and local people are being
taught the value of compost and
manure and growing vegetables in raised
beds. As well as supplying livestock,
support is provided to ensure that the
animals remain fit, healthy and
productive. The improvements achieved
enable locals to become self-sufficient.

Copper deficiency

Richard Laven from Massey University
in New Zealand described copper
deficiency as one of the most
commonly diagnosed mineral
deficiencies in ruminants. VIDA data
between 2005 and 2012 confirmed 44
cases of deficiency (but only one of
toxicity) in goats, compared to 497
deficiency and 387 toxicity in sheep,
raising the question as to whether goats
are less susceptible to toxicity.

Diagnosis, however, is not simple,
and no single test can give a definitive
answer. Signs of deficiency in goats
have included depigmentation, defective keratinisation, enzootic ataxia/swayback
and reduced weight gain.

Primary deficiency can occur if
there is simply too little copper in the
diet, but secondary deficiency occurs as
a result of reduced absorption from the
gut due to antagonists such as
molybdenum, sulphur and iron.

The speaker emphasised the
importance of assessing liver copper
levels either from cull livers, or from
biopsy samples. Liver copper levels
demonstrate the actual store of available
copper, which single blood samples
cannot; these can be maintained within
the reference range even as liver copper
levels fall dramatically.

The measurement of TCA insoluble
copper can give an indication of
“bound” copper if secondary copper
deficiency is suspected. Measurement of
the copper dependent enzyme
caeruloplasmin offers an alternative
enzymatic method, but as it is also an
acute phase protein, false elevation can
occur following inflammatory insults.

Supplementation if required can be
given either orally or by injection.
Injectable copper products give a rapid
response, but the speaker did favour
copper in slow-release bullet format,
being cheaper, safer and longer lasting.


Gathering research for a talk to the
Veterinary History Society, David
Harwood highlighted that the goat was
the first livestock species to be
domesticated, with archaeological
records dating back 10,000 years.

Evolving from the wild goat or
Bezoar ibex, the benefits of goats to
mankind include milk, meat, skins to
carry water and wine, faeces for fuel,
pulling carts – and kid skin was an early
writing paper. Greek mythology and
Egyptian hieroglyphs depict the goat
and the animal features in satanic rituals
and masonic folklore.

Unrelated, perhaps, David
recommended delegates to consider the
Animal Welfare Foundation as a
worthwhile charity with ongoing
projects aiming to improve the welfare
of all animals through veterinary
science, education and debate.
n Many thanks to David for providing
technical notes and photographs from
the York meeting.

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