Of all the goat kids born in the communal areas of KwaZulu-Natal, only 40% survive. That means a staggering 60% die! Predators like feral dogs do a lot of damage, as well do pneumonia (pasturella) and internal parasites.
But another major killer is diarrhoea – the dehydration it causes can kill a young animal within 12 hours. That’s why it’s important to treat sick animals with electrolytes, and possibly antibiotics, immediately.
You can buy ready-mixed electrolytes from your local cooperative, or make your own by stirring eight teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt into 1 litre of warm water. Feed this mixture to the affected kid, instead of milk, for one day. Flat Coke – Coca-Cola without any fizz – would also do. If an animal’s dung is very liquid, add one heaped teaspoon of kaolin powder to the electrolyte mixture to help bind the faeces.
There are many parasites, bacteria and viruses that can cause diarrhoea, so make sure the yard where you keep your kids is clean and that fresh, clean drinking water is available. In the case of bottle-fed animals, keep bottles and teats clean and sterile between feeds.
A common problem in young stock is Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that thrives in dirty environments and contaminated water. E. coli infection is characterised by yellow, watery faeces and can be treated with a sulphur-based antibiotic, either orally or by injection, as well as electrolytes.
Coccidiosis is caused by a parasite that normally attacks slightly older kids, often at weaning time. In this case the faeces are dark and loose, and sometimes flecked with blood. Sulphurbased antibiotics can be effective.
Viral diarrhoea should be treated by keeping goats warm, dry and well hydrated with electrolytes. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. Dosing with medication for humans, such as Gastropect or Smecta, available from pharmacies, can also help to slow diarrhoea. Make sure the animal has good quality food and clean water at all times.