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Choosing a Healthy Goat

Robert Spencer

Urban Regional Extension Specialist
Alabama Cooperation Extension System

Eyes: Look for clear, bright eyes. Swollen, squinty, or red rimmed eyes can indicate pinkeye, cloudy or white eyes can indicate pinkeye or listeriosis; runny eyes can be a symptom of colds, allergies, or pneumonia. Extremely pale skin in the eyelids can indicate anemia (mucus membranes around the eye should be healthy pink color, like in humans) The goat should appear to be able to see, blindness can indicate polio, or listeriosis.

Coat: look for shiny, healthy-looking coat. Rough, dull coat can indicate heavy parasite burden, lice, mineral deficiencies (primarily copper), malnutrition

Joints: Look for fairly smooth, strong knees, hocks, and pasterns. Enlarged joints can indicate CAE, weak joints can indicate Selenium deficiency and other mineral deficiencies

Body smoothness: Feel the goat all over from the tip of the nose to the back hooves. You don’t want to feel any knots, lumps, or unusual swellings. Lumps in the vicinity of the goat’s lymph glands can indicate CL. These areas are primarily at the junction of the jaw and neck below the ear, on the front of the chest, in the armpit, along the backside of the thigh.. Lumps, and swellings under the jaw can indicate bottle jaw (severe protein deficiency due to heavy worm infestation) or abscessed tooth, or lymph node.

Ease of movement: The goat should walk, run, bounce like a goat. A staggering gait or walking in a circle as though confused or blind can indicate goat polio (a severe Thiamin deficiency) or Listeriosis (a serious disease communicable to humans) or even CAE.

Goat Berries: The goat should produce small, oval beads of manure, fairly often and in quantity. They should be loose, not sticking together in clumps. Do not buy a goat that has diarrhea. Diarrhea is a symptom of a sick or severely stressed goat. Period. (when you get the goat home, its probably going to develop diarrhea from stress, anyway, so don’t start with one that has it already!) The exception is kids from 1 to 3 months old. They often get an overgrowth of coccidia at this age. This is relatively easy to control and unless the kid has other symptoms of sickness or poor condition, I wouldn’t necessarily rule out buying the kid.

Goat parasites:

Lice (Heavy infestations can actually cause anemia)

Worms ( The number one killer of goats. Also the largest expense both in treatment/prvention and in indirect losses ie: deaths, failure to thrive, etc… to the farmer)

Coccidia (A protozoa that lives in the intestines and eventually destroys the intestinal wall, preventing absorption of nutrients. Causes scouring in young kids, and makes goat berries clump together in adult goats. It is a normal inhabitant of the gut. They are a problem only if they get too numerous)

Goat Diseases: These are the ones you will hear the most about or you will most likely encounter. This is by no means a complete list.

Pinkeye (caused by different organism than in cattle or humans. Probably spread mainly by flies. Treatable, but best if recognized in early stages, otherwise it can be very difficult to clear up. It is very contagious, isolate suspected cases immediately)

CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis, infection of the lymph system causing abscesses externally and internally. Not fatal, just gross and in meat goats highly unappetizing. Not curable.)

CAE (Caprine Arthritis, viral infection passed through milk from mother to kids…not communicable to humans)

Goat Polio (Thiamin Deficiency Disease, not communicable, but often fatal)

Listeriosis (can be passed on to Humans through milk…can be fatal)

Tuberculosis (Considered to be effectively wiped out of the goat population, but some states still require annual testing for tuberculosis. It had been passed through milk)

Mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland caused by specific disease producing microorganisms. Mastitis is characterized by signs of inflammation: swelling, pain, fever temperature and abnormal milk secretion. It will destroy the mammary tissue and can result in death if gangrene develops in the tissues. )

Enterotoxemia (Also known as Overeating Disease. the cause of the disease is the toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium perfringens type C or type D. Vaccinations for prevention and antitoxin for treatment are available and effective. Enterotoxemia is fatal without treatment.)

Bloat (Indigestion. Bloat can also kill goats, usually by slowing the digestion to the point that enterotoxemia can set in.)

Ketosis (usually occurs during late pregnancy or soon after kidding, can also be fatal)

A most helpful site about goats and goat health is the National Goat Handbook at:

Other recommended Goat Web Sites:

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