Vet on call: Common goat problems and their remedies

Livestock traders help buyers pick the goats to buy at a market in Mombasa. Grazing and confinement often present goats with a variety of problems. 

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • In medium to high rainfall areas, farmers keep small number of goats under confinement or in zero-grazing sheds mainly for milk.
  • The process of adaptation for animals to harmoniously live with germs or parasites takes many generations.
  • Goats kept around homesteads often suffer from a condition called grain overload or lactic acidosis.
  • Many farmers keep asking me how they can keep their goats healthy.

Goats are normally kept in large numbers in arid and semi-arid areas because of their ability to survive by browsing even when the grass dries up and accessing forage where other domestic animals cannot.

They are naturally browsers and not grazers, but when they are kept in pastures without shrubs and bushes, they adapt to grazing.

In medium to high rainfall areas, farmers keep small number of goats under confinement or in zero-grazing sheds mainly for milk.

Grazing and confinement presents goats with a variety of problems. Chief among them is worm infestation.

One reason is that goats have only recently been forced to begin grazing by the drastic reduction of farm sizes due to rapid human population growth and farming of cash crops such as tea and coffee.

The process of adaptation for animals to harmoniously live with germs or parasites takes many generations.

I recall we kept goats and sheep on our family farm as I grew up but we never had any problem with worms in the animals.

The goats were always in top form while the sheep would shed long white threads from the rectum. Today, I know those were tapeworms.

Since there were no dewormers, sheep could even have tapeworms trailing five meters backwards from the rectum.

As boys, we found it funny and would even rank sheep according to the length of the thread.

Another problem is bacterial infection especially enterotoxaemia. The bacteria causing the disease live in the ground and multiply during the rainy season.

Goats that graze on the grass easily get infected and have continuous diarrhoea and die of dehydration and malnutrition. Others die suddenly if the bacteria produce a lot of toxins at once.

Less knowledge 

There is also the orf virus that causes wounds around the mouth. It occurs mainly during the wet season.

Because of that association, most goat-keepers believe goats should be let out to browse after the dew has cleared.

Goats kept around homesteads often suffer from a condition called grain overload or lactic acidosis.

This occurs when the animals consume excessive starchy material such as grain, sweet potatoes, bread or maize flour.

We had many such incidents when our goats would break into the kitchen and help themselves to loads of cooked maize and beans.

The animals would have distended stomachs for days and belch out noxious gases. Some would drop cud as they tried to regurgitate.

I came to learn the phenomenon is due to disruption of the swallowing and regurgitation reflex caused by excessive production of lactic acid.

Goats also suffer from foot and mouth disease, a viral infection that affects all domestic ruminants and pigs.

Many farmers keep asking me how they can keep their goats healthy. Certainly, most people have less knowledge on goat rearing than they do on cattle.

Washed once per week

To minimise the worm burden, goats should either be browsed or their feed provided in a structure at least 60cm from the ground to avoid contamination with soil.

Those housed under zero-grazing should be on raised floors where the urine and droppings pass through gaps on the floor and drop to the ground to prevent accumulation of germs and parasite eggs.

The goat house should be kept clean through washing and periodic disinfection.

A good worm control programme should be implemented where the animals are dewormed every two to three months.

The dewormer used should be a combination or single-molecule product that kills all the three families of worms comprising roundworms, tapeworms and flat worms.

Consult your animal health service provider to be advised on the best dewormer to use in your area.

The common vaccines given to goats in Kenya are for prevention of foot and mouth disease, anthrax and black quarter, enterotoxaemia, orf and goat pox.

Contagious caprine pleuropneumonia (CCPP) vaccine should be given in areas where it is known to occur or if you normally obtain goats from areas known to have the disease. CCPP is mainly found in hot dry areas.

Apparently, healthy unvaccinated animals from such areas often develop the disease when they are transported to cold areas.

Dealing with fleas, mites and ticks in goats is the easiest of all. Animals should be washed once per week with a chemical that kills all the three types of parasites.

 jmugachia@yahoo.com/satnation@ke.nationmedia.com