Managing kids and goats to improve health outcomes

Posted on November 6, 2023 in Dairy Goat Performance
Attention to kid care and management can reduce immunological stress and will increase the survival rate of kids.  During her Vita Plus Dairy Goat Seminar presentation, Kate Stollen, DVM, Stollen Veterinary Consulting and Holsum Dairies LLC, reviewed challenges associated with birth and youngstock care.

Possible challenges at birth include hypothermia, time spent on kidding bed-pack, exposure to adult pathogens and manure, and colostrum feeding schedule at a consistent temperature.

Stollen emphasized how critical the first colostrum feeding is because it provides antibodies and energy in the form of fat and protein.

Stollen said she recommends administering 35 g IgG through three feedings and to feed 1 ounce per pound of birth weight with either an esophageal tube feeder or a bottle.  Ideally, administer three to four feedings with 6- to 8-hour intervals between feedings.

She prefers single-source versus pooled colostrum from a dam that tests negative for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE).  This eliminates disease transfer.  She said colostrum should be heat-treated to help eliminate and control disease transfer from dam to kid (such as Johne’s, there is still risk for CAE transfer).  The best strategy is to heat at a low temperature for a longer period to best preserve the colostrum’s IgG content.  Stollen noted the industry does not have a validated minimum standard for goat colostrum quality measured with a Brix refractometer.

Milk replacer
Some considerations with milk replacer include what milk replacer or milk feeding options are available to the producer; the use of auto-feeders, mob feeder, individual bottles, and cold waste milk all have potential positives and negatives in terms of ability to utilize milk replacer versus waste milk, as well as difficulty maintaining good hygiene in each system.  Another consideration is starter intake for rumen development including access to forage and grain, which is critical for rumen development.  Stollen recommends offering small amounts of forage from the second week of life, gradually ramping up as rumens continue to develop.  The ability to offer forage alongside of grain is producer dependent and forage availability should not supersede grain.  Producers must find a balance between adequate energy from milk replacer and encouragement to transition to solid diet.  A gradual step down is less stressful for kids, however, Stollen cautions that the step down should be in terms of milk volume and not variation in total solids.

Hygiene and cleaning protocol
Stollen encouraged producers to have a detailed hygiene and cleaning protocol for the neonatal kid area, including the feeding and housing areas and pointed out the importance of naval care, disbudding, temperature management and identification.

“You cannot vaccinate your way out of poor management,” said Stollen.  “Hygiene is a critical step to successfully raising newborns and maintaining a healthy herd.”

Suggested hygiene practices include:

  • Defined standards for cleaning materials
  • Biosecurity between different age groups
  • No random visitors on the farm
  • Feed storage protocols followed
  • Pest control measures taken

Horn removal
Horn removal makes handling of the animals safer as adults and reduces the risk of animal injury.  Ideally, disbudding is performed as early in life as possible.  Stollen said that electrocautery and paste are recommended procedures and should be preceded by administering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs one to two hours prior to reduce pain.  Applying a spray over cauterized horn buds creates a protective barrier while the tissue heals.  Stollen recommended using a duct tape bonnet for caustic paste application to prevent smearing or contact with other animals in group pens for up to 24 hours while paste dries.

Causes and symptoms of diarrhea
Stollen also reviewed causes and symptoms of kid diarrhea, including E. coli, Rotavirus/coronavirus, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Clostridium perfringens and nutritional scours. She encouraged producers to ask their local veterinarian questions to help determine the cause and to take proactive measures.

“In determining vaccination timing a producer should consider short-term versus long-term or treatment versus prevention,” said Stollen.

For more information, contact your nutritionist or dairy goat specialist.

Category: Animal health
Dairy Goat Performance
Kid nutrition