Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Documenting an Unknown Goat Illness

Day 1: Sunday
I saw him before I heard him: a brand new baby goat. I missed the birth by a matter of just a few minutes - he was still wet, partially wrapped in the placenta, and hadn't cried yet. Bob scooped him up and washed and toweled him dry. It was warm enough that it really wasn't necessary - the mom would have cleaned and dried him - and it was a bright sunny day, but he was born in a particularly sandy spot so it was nice of Bob to clean him . I was a little concerned because the mom - Maude - was lying down and not showing much interest. I would have chalked it up to exhaustion after birth, but usually new moms are overly interested in their babies, nudging and cooing to them, and we had had a similar disinterest from another nanny earlier this spring and it didn't end well. I tried to calm my fears and be extra observant.
 A bit later we went back to make sure the baby was nursing. the mom was still making no attempt to bond or to show the baby the direction of her teats. Bob and I worked to put the baby on to nurse and eventually he did. Maude seemed irritated - not in pain, but not interested in having him suck on her. She moved away and laid down often.
I continued  to check to see that the baby was nursing and because he wasn't crying I hoped that perhaps mom needed just a little more time to bond. After all, it had only been a few hours.

Day 2: Monday
Maude is spending more time on the ground lying down than I like. She should be up and fussing over her baby. The baby seems content though and is lying next to his mother. I assume that he is nursing while I'm not watching. She is somewhat listless and not interested in eating.

Day 3:  Tuesday
Ok, now I'm concerned and ask Bob to check on her before he leaves for work. He brings her fresh cut branches with new leaves before leaving for work - a delicacy, and he gives her two shots of Thiamine. After milking I go check on them and decide to take the baby away. He is sleeping next to his mom, but he isn't acting as though he's getting enough to eat (though she seems to be producing colostrum - not much, but sufficient.) By day three a healthy baby goat should be playful and he isn't showing much vigor. I force feed him a half bottle of warm milk and he drinks it all greedily. Maude still has not eaten and is not getting up on her own. By afternoon she is falling over onto her side and is unable to right herself. I know now that it is not a Thiamine deficiency, which is not uncommon in goats.
Because we had a goat that had these same symptoms once before I'm afraid of what's ahead unless we can accurately diagnose and treat this sickness.  Previously I researched everything I could find to try to help the goat but could not find a proper diagnosis according to the symptoms. We gave her shots of penicillin twice a day for two weeks, which eventually seemed to help, but in the end it was not enough.
The only thing I could find that was remotely similar was a necrotic udder mastitis which is caused by a bacterial infection, but Maude's udder is fine - no swelling, heat or cold, no hardness, and I believe the baby kept her drained so there is no engorgement, which are all signs to look for with mastitis.
I did find one illness called "Post pregnancy Disease" which, seemed impossible because it is generally caused by  poor feed and too much or too little grain. We feed our goats Perennial Peanut hay - the highest concentrated protein source for hay in the area, and what I believe to be the correct amount of grain each day, but because both of my milk goats began showing the same symptoms immediately after kidding I've decided to treat for Ketosis - the post pregnancy disease.
According to what I've read, there is an inability for some goats to take in enough calories to support both her and her baby(s). The signs are similar to what Maude is displaying: loss of appetite, dullness, separation from the herd, staggering (she isn't getting up to stagger, but she is falling over)...
 I've begun treating with a Karo Syrup/Molasses 2/1 drench: 20-30 ml every two hours. I'm also cutting more fresh tree branches and I'll give her some electrolytes next time I go out there. Thankfully she is drinking greedily.

I was so hopeful. I really thought that this might be the correct diagnosis and treatment - not only did I have the ingredients on hand, but I started it right away. Perhaps if we had given her a shot of Penicillin this morning...
Maude died tonight at 7:00 with her head in my lap.  Her baby is fine - bottle feeding like a champ!

Homestead Life is not always easy.


  1. So sad...I'm sorry to hear that you lost Maude. Her baby is cute as a button though!

  2. I am so sorry Marcy, she was a lovely goat. Her baby is darling! What is his name? It's hard to be a Farmer.

  3. I'm not sure yet - I've been calling him "Maude's boy" or "the baby", but that won't be true much longer - we have MORE on the way! (1 nanny due to kid tomorrow!) Whatever I decide will be temporary just until he goes to a forever home. Thank-you all for your condolences.