Dying Goats - not sure what we're doing wrong

Doug

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Hi Group,

I've been lurking for a while but this is my first post. Post will be long but I'll try to supply as much info as I can below.

We purchased 4 dwarf nigerian goats just over 90 days ago. All males, all debudded. I was raised on a farm many years ago but had never raised goats prior to this. I think /thought we bought them from a reputable breeder - the goats are all he does, and he was a goat show judge for many years. However, looking back, I'm a little upset with the information he provided. One of my first questions was, "What do I need to be aware of, look for as far as health, and what, if any medications do I need to keep on hand?" His answer was, "They are pretty care free and know what to eat and what not to eat and how to take care of themselves. If they get diarrhea, give them scour medication." I asked about vaccinations. He said, " I used to vaccinate but don't any more and haven't had any issues". We bottle fed the goats until they were just over 8 weeks. They had already started browsing well before being fully weaned.

We are located in North Georgia, north east of Atlanta. We have a fenced in area of about a half acre just for the goats. Most of that is wooded ( edge of the woods) with several types of briars (seems to be a favorite), muscadine wines, poplar, oak, pine, dogwood, poison ivy and other woodland plants of the area - lots of undergrowth. Some grass - centipede and fescue. A lot of browsing. A natural spring runs through the area and a very small pond are accessible by the goats. Lots of green growth around the pond edges. The goats have a covered and enclosed area off the ground to get out of the weather, stay dry and sleep.

One of the goats had been "puny" the entire time and seemed to be slower and less active than the rest. It loved to be petted and came up to us every time we went out but was noticeably separate from the others most of the time. It ate less than the others but always ate. We'd only had them a couple of weeks when one day the runt started acting like a "zombie" - very slow, very quiet, with a blank stare. No diarrhea. I started calling vets but it was a Sunday and none were immediately available. Was down and dead within hours. Was on it's side - crying out and kicking some before dying. Just because of what we'd observed, and not knowing any better, we assumed something had been wrong with it all along and that it was an anomaly.

Out of the blue, couple of weeks later, our most active, best eater (they were still being bottle fed but had started nibbling/browsing), suddenly looked the same. Also a Sunday, no vet available. Again, down and dead within a couple of hours with the same circumstances. Had been playing, vocalizing, and eating fine just a few hours earlier. Called the breeder. He said he had no idea and had never seen anything like it.

Hit the Internet and found you guys along with several other sites. Based on what I read I started making some changes. Based on what we observed, I "think" the first 2 died of enterotoxemia. Please correct if you see something different. Got the CDT vaccine and immunized the remaining 2. Got the C&D antitoxin to keep on hand. Started putting probiotics and and a round of corid in their milk. Also got goat minerals and have had a small amount freely available to them ever since. We'd also started, before the 2nd one died, giving a small amount of goat feed in addition to their milk, and later, their browsing. Have given very little feed to this point however and relied mainly on their browsing.

A short time later, I saw what I thought was a scratch on of the goats eyes. The next day, it was almost completely white. Hit the Internet, determined pink eye, treated with Liquimycen injections and a pink eye gel. Looked horrible for a few days and I was convinced it woudl be blind in the eye if not lose it. Fully recovered a little over a week later. Yeah! First health success.

Its been over a month since then - no issues. Goats eating well, pooping well, playing well, dozing/sleeping well. Vocalizing well.

Yesterday, one of the goats (Max) had a slight amount of diarrhea and "crust" around one of it's eyes. He was eating fine/ acting fine. Did not have any scour medication on-hand but did give a shot of Liquimycen. Went to tractor supply this morning for scour medication. Got home, no diarrhea, eyes were clean and clear, and the goat was eating/acting well. I didn't give any other meds. Had a short, but heavy rain come through this afternoon. My daughter went out to the goats afterwards and called to me that Max was on his side and couldn't get up. I immediately got the CD antitoxin and gave an SQ injection. I followed in a different location with another Liqumycen injection. Sat with him for a while and while he did not seem to get any better, he also did not seem to get any worse. His eyes were following us and he would bleat at us and the other goat and nibble, but not eat, if something was offered. We found the others before they were on thier sides and they were gone within an hour or so and pretty much unresponsive after we foudn them. Had some hope that Max may pull through. Came back in and hit the Internet. Read that it was recommended to treat with the antitoxin every 2 hours or so. My daughter had just came in and said Max was still alive. We went out for another injection but he was no longer breathing and we couldn't find/see a pulse anywhere.

The biggest thing we've not done, that I have seen mentioned here, is worm the goats. With other animals, I've seen signs of worms, then wormed them with no other issues. Have not seen any signs of worms in the goat's poop - not sure if it's as obvious with them - and have not treated. Breeder says that he doesn't treat and has large herds. I am guessing this has been a mistake for us.

My wife said maybe we're not meant to have goats. We've really enjoyed them and think we've learned a lot so far but have much more to learn. Outside of the sudden deaths (yes, thats a big deal) the goats have seemed very happy and healthy. Would love to continue to keep them but definitely don't want to if our batting average with them doesn't improve. What are we doing wrong and/or what should we be doing differently?

Thanks for your thoughts.
 

Mike CHS

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We don't have goats so I don't have experience there but with the couple of sheep that we have lost, they were lost due to parasites. They go from seeming normal to dead in an amazingly short time. You can find out for sure by doing or having a fecal done. You should have some goat people respond fairly soon though.
 

Hens and Roos

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Sorry to hear that your goats didn't make it. One thing that comes to mind would be possible coccidiosis(diarrhea is the most common sign) given their age. Taking their temp is always a good idea if you suspect that they aren't feeling well to help give you information.

tagging a few others with goat experience: @OneFineAcre @Goat Whisperer @Southern by choice @B&B Happy goats @goatgurl @babsbag
 

Baymule

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Really sorry about your goats. Please don’t give up, you are getting hit by the heartache of livestock keeping. The joys you will get will far outweigh the rocky start you now are dealing with. There are lots of knowledgeable people here that will be glad to help. I also have sheep, there will be goat people along shortly to help you.
 

CaramelKittey

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So sorry for your losses. I’m sure we all know how heartbreaking it is. Goats tend to pretend to be heathy even when they are sick. Then, the suddenly drop dead. Don’t give up on goats though. They are the sweetest animals that will love you and scream for you to come out and scratch them right behind their ears.

Not sure if it is worms or not but I will definitely advise a necropsy. A great way to check for worms in a goat is to pull down their eyelid under their eye. Look at the eyelid, not the eyeball. If the eyelid is pale white or grey, that is a severe case of worms. If it is pinkish red, the goat is not in danger of worms.
Check out Famacha. Famacha has a tool to show you the parasite load in your herd and when to manage it when medication.
689BCB21-7AA8-476A-BF40-896FEECC4453.jpeg



Anaemia is a side effect of worms and those chart will help you determine if you goats have worms or not.

Since they are got sick so suddenly, it sounds more like a plant toxin since the sickness started when they started browsing. Oak leaves and acorns are poisonous during the fall however, I keep my goats away from oak leaves year round. Plants such as milkweed and wild cherry are highly toxic to goats. Here is a list of plants that are toxic to goats.
https://fiascofarm.com/goats/poisonousplants.htm

I hope this helps and I hope your last goat survives! Goats are so much fun and will always love you. Don’t give up!
 
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Southern by choice

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I agree, a necropsy should be done by the state lab or teaching university.
At what age were they castrated?
What feed are they on?
It also may be a good idea to have an extension agent come and look atthe land to see if there are any poisonous plants.

Have or did you have any fecals run during the 3 months you have had them? SE region is a "coccidia" haven. Coccidia is the leading cause of death in kids. FAMACHA is only good for barberpole worm and not a good indicator for kids because they can go from pink to white quickly because of age and size.
 

Doug

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@Mike CHS , @greybeard , @Hens and Roos, @Baymule Thanks for all of the replies. I am now thinking worms. Max did seem a little slower the past couple of days - seems to stand out looking back but nothing we really noticed enough to mention before he died.

As I mentioned above, I grew up on a farm (Chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, cows, etc.) and loved life as a youth. My children have not had that experience although we have multiple pets - dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish etc. There are several small farms with goats around us and I thought having a few for our kids to care for would be good. Obviously didn't' do enough research - didn't know that fecal samples and necropsies were relatively common and we've had none done. I will be reaching out to a local farm animal vet.

@CaramelKittey - Thanks for the FAMACHA chart - I'll check our remaining goat as soon as I type this. Looks like another trip to Tractor Supply :) I don't know every plant in the goat area but I do not recognize any on the poisonous chart that are accessible to them.

@Southern by choice - They had not been castrated. We've given very little feed - maybe a handful or 2 weekly - but Purina Goat Grower Medicated is what we have. It contains decoquinate for coccida and we also used corid in their milk the last 3 weeks before weaning.

Let me know if there is anything else or seems to be anything I've missed. Thanks again!
 

greybeard

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didn't know that fecal samples and necropsies were relatively common and we've had none done. I will be reaching out to a local farm animal vet.
Fecal samples are relatively common in several different species livestock.
Necropsy not so much common, because of cost and elapsed time after death.
Some local vets will do it, but much more common for a state's land grant university to do it as they are better staffed and equipped.
It's (necropsy) not always a sure thing tho...sometimes, the results are still "death due to unknown (or) undetermined causes" .
 

OneFineAcre

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The 2 that died sounds a lot like coccidia. I've lost some just like that. Fine that morning, dead that afternoon. One year we lost several over a couple of days. Awful experience. I wanted to quit goats myself.
Pink eye is spread by flies.
The only way to know for sure is a necropsy, but greybeard is right that can't always tell you for sure.
We give coccidia prevention, but not all breeders do. Also, I do know some breeders that don't give CD&T vaccine because you can get strains of clostridium that aren't type C or D. We do, it's a cheap vaccine so we don't see any reason not to.
 
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