Goat Management and Disease Prevention

Pregnancy Disease (Ketosis)

During late pregnancy, does require a relatively high level of nutrients. In fact, nutritional requirements are as high during late pregnancy as they are during lactation, especially if the pregnant doe is carrying more than one fetus. Not only are extra nutrients needed by the developing fetuses, but they also crowd the abdominal cavity and reduce ruminal volume. As a result, large amounts of feed cannot be consumed. Because of this, does fed a poor quality diet (especially if they are fat) can develop ketosis and die due to inadequate energy intake. Grain and protein meal and to a lesser extent whole cottonseed are the prefered feeds to overcome this problem.

Inadequate nutrition during late pregnancy will also result in small, weak kids at birth, and high early death losses, especially in twin and triplets. When forage or browse is low in quality, (40 to 55% TDN; 10% protein or less), does in late pregnancy and early lactation should be provided with about 1 lb/day of a 16% protein concentrate.

Urinary Calculi

In goats, clinical obstruction of the urinary tract is most frequently seen in young, castrated males and the calculi are usually comprised of calcium phosphate salts. Castrated goats kept as pets and show bucks are at high risk for developing the condition due primarily to the feeding of excessive grain in the diet. If the diet contains too much phosphorous relative to calcium, supplemental calcium from feed grade limestone is required to maintain a calcium:phosphorous ratio of 2:1 to 4:1.

Body Condition

Producers should be concerned with the body condition of their breeding animals. The term body condition refers to the fleshing of an animal. Does should not be allowed to become too thin or too fat. Failure in reproduction, low twinning rates and low weaning rates will result if does are too thin. Overly fat does can suffer pregnancy toxemia, but fat does are rarely a problem .

Simply looking at an animal to determine its body condition can easily be misleading. Rather, animals should be touched and evaluated in a chute. The easiest area to feel and touch to determine the body condition of an animal are the rib areas, on either side of the spine, by running a hand over those areas and pressing down with a few fingers. In doing so, one is able to determine the amount of fat covering the ribs. Other areas to monitor are the shoulders, the tail heads, the pins, the hooks, the edge of the loins and the backbone. Practice makes perfect, thus use your animals to get a feel for it. An easy way to start is to select a few animals that are over conditioned and some others that are thin to get a feel for extreme cases. Then introduce a small group of animals and compare their condition to the animals having extreme body condition. Producers should develop an eye and a touch for the condition of their animals and strive to maintain a moderate amount of condition on their goats. If you can easily see the backbone and ribs, the goats are most probably undernourished. When body condition starts to decrease, it is a sign that supplemental feed is needed or that animals should be moved to a higher quality pasture. Waiting until goats become thin to start improving their feeding regime may lead to large production losses.

One should also be concerned with the body condition of the breeding bucks. Bucks will have reduced fertility if they are too thin. On the other hand, if bucks are overfed and become too fat, they may have no desire to breed does.


Flushing means increasing the level of feed offered to breeding does, mostly energy, starting about one month prior to the introduction of the bucks, to increase body weight, ovulation rate and hopefully litter size. Increasing the level of energy offered to does should continue throughout the breeding season and for approximately 30 to 40 days after removing the bucks, for adequate implantation of the foetuses in the uterus. Body condition is used to determine whether flushing will be of benefit to breeding does. Does in extremely good body condition will tend not to respond to flushing. On the other hand, does that are in relatively poor condition as a result of summer pastures of poor quality, high worm loads, late kidding of twins or triplets, will respond favorably to flushing by improving their body condition.

Flushing can be accomplished by moving breeding does to a lush nutritious pasture 3 to 4 weeks prior to the introduction of the bucks. This cost-effective flushing method is underutilized in the Southeast where forage is abundant. Another method is feeding ½ lb/day of a high energy supplement. Corn is the grain of choice for flushing; whole cottonseed is another low cost, high energy supplement. The goal being to increase the intake and body weight, breeding does should be grouped according to their body condition and fed accordingly to first improve their body condition, then to maintain it.