There has been a flurry of queries this week about sick goats; hindquarter paralysis that ends in the animal’s death, animals going off their feed, ewes two months after lambing that lose condition and don’t seem able to gain weight. It seems like a good time to review goat flock management.
At the risk of boring readers, I’m going to say it again – make sure your animal husbandry is on track and you are taking care of your animals. The first principle of farming is to look after your asset. Work with your animals and keep a hands-on approach no matter how small your flock. Vigilant screening of animals first thing in the morning is the best way to check. Feed and water sick animals, and supplement if necessary, with green browse. Avoid feeding highly digestible feed like concentrates, maize and sorghum to sick goats.
And if you have no crush, get cracking and build one.
Until the end of the rainy season there will be a greater exposure to ticks and endoparasites (or worms) that colonise the animal’s gut. These high parasite loads are a threat to the health of your goats and especially to the lambs in the flock.
If it is at all possible, keep the newly-born lambs and their mothers separate from the rest of the flock for a few days.
Tethering and confining goats, effectively stopping them from browsing and grazing, is an effective way of starving them to death. Especially so when it comes to ewes running with their lambs. Don’t do it – it doesn’t make sense.
It is absolutely essential to dip for ticks and dose for worms.
About 15% of goat mortalities in the sub region are caused by worm overload in the gut which leads to severe diarrhoea. Dehydration follows diarrhoea and goats are very susceptible to dehydration. Young animals can die quite quickly once they are dehydrated.
If the animal is sick and down it cannot get to water. Keep it quiet in a cool place and give it water twice a day – if necessary force feed the water. The adult goat needs at least 4 litres of water a day: give 2 litres in the morning and 2 litres in the afternoon.
To get the fluid down, put a teat onto a coke bottle; smaller teats for younger animals and bigger ones for more mature goats. The local co-op should have a range of teats. Keep some handy and save a few plastic 2 litre bottles for times when you need to rehydrate animals. For adults you can make the hole in the teat larger to get the fluid down.
You can tube the animal to get the rehydrate into the gut but don’t do this unless you have had some practice and are competent. The risk is that you can put the drenching tube into the airway, and then of course you will drown your animal. Not a good outcome.
A basic rehydration solution:
- 1 litre of clean water, warmed to body temperature if possible. (a standard teacup is 200ml so 5 cups would be about a litre)
6 level teaspoons of sugar
½ level teaspoon of salt
Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
Dose the flock for worms every three months but keep a lookout for signs of worms between dosing. The FAMACHA method of checking small stock parasite loads is a very useful management tool. This method works on the pale colour or otherwise of the membrane inside the eyelid.
Animals that are more prone to parasites than the rest of the flock have compromised immune systems and should be culled.
The interval between dip treatments changes according to the time of the year and the relevant seasonal tick population. After the rains tick populations can explode and stockmen need to carry out regular dipping. Whether spray, topline or plunge is a matter of personal choice and of available facilities, but not to dip is to invite trouble and mortalities. Keep a sharp eye on your animals and when you think the tick load is getting too high, dip immediately.
To avoid resistance, alternate the dips you use; for example you can alternate an Amitraz (a non-systemic acaracide) dip with a pyrethroid dip. It gives you better cover and goes some way towards avoiding the build up of resistance. Some of the pyrethroid dips are not recommended for very young animals.
Amitraz dips are highly toxic to horses so don’t be tempted to dip any of your stock horses with it.
Outlets: MSD Animal Health has outlets across Africa and manufactures both types of dip.
Virbac markets Amipor which is a popular dip.
The salespeople who market these products are generally very helpful and farmers can consult with them on how best to manage their problems with ticks.