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Perinatal Management of Goats


Common problems in does are extra teats, double teats, and fish-tail teats with double orifices. In cattle, extra teats can be removed with impunity, but in dairy goats there is often a functional milk gland behind the spare teat, and removal of abnormal teats is discouraged.

Newborn goats must be fed colostrum, and if caprine arthritis and encephalitis (CAE) is a problem, heat treatment is essential for control. Later, kids can be fed (in decreasing order of desirability) goat's milk, goat-milk replacer, lamb-milk replacer, or cow's milk. Any fresh milk fed should be pasteurized or from stock known to be free of CAE virus, mycoplasmas, and paratuberculosis. Newborn goats should be fed at 10%–12% of their body wt per day. Kids should be provided sufficient milk or replacer at regular intervals to achieve normal growth.

Kids should have access to hay and a grain-based creep feed as early as 1 wk of age. They can be weaned when they are readily eating solid feed as most of the diet; this varies from early weaning at 6 wk of age until weaning as late as 12 wk of age. Weaning may be delayed in some goat operations because there is no commercial outlet for doe's milk, so it is fed to kids.

Dairy goat doe kids of European breeds should be disbudded at 5–7 days of age. Bucks of the European breeds should be disbudded 2 days earlier to maximally inhibit horn growth or subsequent development of abnormal regrowth (scurs). Horns may develop more slowly in Nubian, Nigerian Dwarf, and Pygmy does, but disbudding before 2 wk of age is preferred to decrease pain during the procedure and to prevent scur development. Hot-iron disbudding is the method of choice, using either a restraint box and nerve block, or general anesthesia. Excessive applications of the hot iron can lead to brain damage or subsequent death. Disbudding kids with caustic paste is not recommended.

Angora goats in range operations are not disbudded because the horns are thought to be helpful against predators, and because owners handle the goats by their horns. When goats are housed in winter, disbudding is advantageous, because it reduces trauma and prevents accidents in which goats are trapped by their horns in feeders and fence lines. Pygmies can be disbudded according to the owner's preference; it is not a cause for disqualification or discrimination in the show ring in the USA. Dairy goats generally are disbudded, and horned animals usually are barred from the show ring in the USA. Tetanus can be seen after disbudding or castration and, as a precaution, antitoxin can be administered at disbudding.

Dairy goats and pygmy bucks are castrated in the first few weeks; Angoras are castrated later, after they have attained good horn growth. In males to be kept as pets, castration should be delayed to allow maximal urethral development, which reduces the likelihood of urolithiasis (see Urolithiasis in Ruminants). To improve their desirability as pets, wethers should have the scent glands, located caudomedially to the horn base, removed during disbudding.

Last full review/revision January 2014 by Joan S. Bowen, DVM

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