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Neonatal Kid Care

Prepare and Prevent Common Diseases

By Dr. Deb Mangelsdorf, DVM

Spring is the time of year when newborn kids arrive in abundance at most dairy goat farms. A little prevention goes a long way towards raising those kids to be healthy bucks or does. It all begins with neonatal care prior to parturition to keep common diseases out of the picture. Vaccinations, colostrum, and coccidiastats are all part of a healthy herd management regime that should be considered by any breeder trying to build a healthy goat herd.

First, it is important to establish a plan for new kids just as one would for any new addition. Bringing kids into the herd and assuring their well-being and health starts with special attention to the dam in the last trimester of pregnancy. This early care calls for a close check of the pregnant does’ body condition regularly, and feed adjustments to maintain or slightly increase condition in the last trimester. The animals that are at the extremes of the scale, too fat or too thin, are at the most risk for ketosis and complications of delivery. Kids born to ketotic does or from prolonged labor for any reason may be slow to nurse and predisposed to hypothermia, floppy kid syndrome, and other maladjustment syndromes. They seem "stupid," ie., slow to learn to latch onto a nipple and suck.

Learning how to vaccinate does against Clostridium perfringens type C and D and Tetanus toxoid four to six weeks before their due date, will assure a high level of antibodies in the colostrum for the kids. Deworming the doe at this time diminishes the load of parasites present in not only her system, but minimizes the presence of infective ova she will pass into the environment of the newborn kid.

Other vaccinations and treatments might be required for herds in different situations and different parts of the country. For areas deficient in selenium, for example, a mineral supplementing Se or a prenatal injection of BoSe would be recommended. Kids born deficient in selenium are susceptible to "White Muscle Disease" which can affect skeletal as well as heart muscle. Kids may appear stiff or as though in pain with a hunched-up back. When the heart is involved, the clinical signs mimic pneumonia. Many of these kids do not survive. Because selenium can be toxic, goat owners need to consult an area expert (vet or county extension agent) to be sure this use is appropriate.

Pregnant does from show herds and herds with exposure to many new animals might benefit from vaccination with pneumonia vaccines such as those for Pasteurella, for Parainfluenza virus, for E. coli, or for mastitis-causing Staphylococcus aureus. A check with other local goat breeders, area veterinarians, and extension agents can usually help identify possible problems in each locale.

Getting kids off to a strong start requires the passing of immunoglobulins, energy and nutrition in the form of colostrum. The newborn can absorb the large globulins found in colostrum in their intact and actively protective form only in the first 24 hours after birth. Colostrum is high in these proteins, fat and carbohydrates, and must be handled with care. The protein content is so high that if it is subjected to temperatures greater than 140ºF it will congeal to a well-clotted pudding. When heat-treating colostrum for "pasteurized" kids, be careful to slowly heat the colostrum (with a double boiler or in a container in a water bath) to 135°F. It must be held at this temperature for one hour to inactivate the CAE virus. Many have chosen to use colostrum from other sources, especially cow colostrum. This might be acceptable if the health status of the herd is compatible. Ask the herdsman if the cows have been vaccinated, for what and when. Several other pathogens are killed by heat-treating as mentioned above, so I highly recommend treating all colostrum in this way.

If kids are to be raised on their dams, a nice clean clipping of long, wet, or dirty hair on the belly, udder and escutcheon area minimizes exposure to coliform bacteria, coccidia oocytes, and parasite ova. After the dam has cleaned and accepted the kid, strip each teat to be sure the canal is open and the colostrum looks normal. Observe the kids nurse and pass meconium stool (that black tarry first stool from a newborn) to be assured that they are getting enough. Kids bottle-raised need to consume a minimum of 10% of their body weight in colostrum up to about 20% in the first 24 hours.

Along with bringing the kid into the cleanest environment possible, protect it from absorbing unwanted contaminants by dipping the naval in strong iodine solution, and painting iodine on its soft feet. I find pouring a little iodine in a pill vial with a snap cap makes the best dipping container. Clip the excess umbilical cord to a length of about one inch, and holding the kid by the chest and rump, dip the cord into the vial with iodine or have an assistant dip and "slosh" the iodine onto the cord and belly. Use a few cotton balls or soft disposable cloth to paint the feet with iodine as well. When bacteria find their way up and into the kid via the feet or naval cord, they rapidly multiply and can cause severe systemic infections that have a tendency to settle in the capillary beds of the lungs, liver and joints. The result can be kids that are very toxic, often showing signs of pain, malaise, pneumonia, swollen joints and even meningitis.

Once new kids are off to a good start, the continuance of an optimum health program includes: good nutrition, fresh air and exercise, a clean dry pen, and prevention of disease and parasitism with appropriate vaccines and medications. Herd plans and philosophies vary tremendously with respect to feeding the newborn. This might depend on time constraints of a work schedule, when chores can be done and help is available. Kids should receive 10-20% of their body weight in milk or high quality milk-replacer daily, divided into three to four feedings. Right from the beginning they should have access to hay as their curiosity will have them mouthing and tasting and nibbling hay early. The sooner they start to eat hay the sooner they will start to develop a functional rumen. My busy schedule means that I can feed babies three times a day only for a few days, and that means taking them to work in a Rubbermaid tub! When they will drink at least 16 ounces from a pop bottle they "graduate" to twice a day feeding. Avoid overfeeding of milk early to prevent "overeaters" and "floppy kid syndrome."

Most dairy goat herd situations benefit from early coccidia prevention with a coccidiastat added to the milk and/or the feed the kids are eating. Again, it is important to consult a local veterinarian for the proper use of these additives. Kids should receive their first vaccinations at one month of age. Vaccinate them for CD & T and the pneumonia vaccine if at risk. Repeat these at two and three months of age. I recommend the deworming of kids at these times as well.

Paying attention to neonatal care, colostrum intake, vaccinations, and coccidia control can ensure the survival, health and growth of caprine kids and help them have a bright future.

Disease in kids can be prevented by giving pregnant does 2-1/2 ml per 100 pounds body weight, subcutaneously (under the skin) one week before freshening.

Pasteurellosis, another clostridial disease, can be prevented with a two ml. shot, in the muscle, to kids around two months of age. Again, this is a vaccine that must be distributed by a veterinarian and the breeder concerned with this must follow advice based on locale and past history of goat herds in the area.

Goat herds affected and/or infected with caseous lymphadenitis abscesses can benefit from the Case-Bac vaccination, listed earlier, but again, veterinarian care and advice must be sought, as this is a live vaccine and sometimes can actually cause the disease the breeder is aiming to prevent.

Vaccinations are a confusing part of kid care that some breeders may choose to ignore. But even the loss of one kid to a preventable disease costs more than a simple phone call or trip to the veterinarian’s office to establish a sound vaccination program to cover the healthy goat herd.

A workable vaccination schedule, at a glance, might look something like this:

  • Primary course: two doses, four to six weeks apart.
  • Boosters: every six months.
  • Kids from vaccinated does: start at 10 to 12 weeks of age.
  • Kids from unvaccinated does: start at two to four weeks of age.
  • Kids which have not received goat colostrum: start at two to four weeks of age.
  • Pregnant does: booster two to four weeks before kidding.
  • Regular dose: two ml.

With information from "Dairy Goats for Pleasure and Profit" by Harvey Considine, the Caprine Supply 2007 order magazine, "Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats" by Jerry Belanger, and "Keeping Your Goat Healthy" by John G. Matthews.

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