Weaning Health Issues

Goats June 29, 2012|Print

Health Issues at Weaning:

Weaning health issues include both kid and doe problems. The major problem with the does at this time is mastitis. This problem generally is caused by improper dry-off practices at weaning. Most good does will produce milk as long as the kid is nursing. This can create problems at weaning. The doe’s udder after weaning will fill when the kids have not nursed, and producers may not notice the initial signs of mastitis building until the following kidding. At this point, the reduction in milk production may cause a problem.

To properly dry-off the doe, start about four weeks before weaning and reduce supplemental feed. This will help signal the body to reduce milk production. The kids will be consuming more feed and/or forage so they do not need as much milk. Then at weaning, eliminate all supplemental feeding to does and place the does on poor quality forage for a week. This will again trigger the system to stop milk production due to low nutrition levels.

At the same time it is good, when possible, to remove the water for 24 hours for the does. Reduction in water intake will cause the body to stop milk production very quickly. A longer water removal interval is not advisable. After the 24-hour water removal, allow the does to drink. Then, water may be withheld for another day. After the second withholding of water, allow them access to water at least once every day for a maximum of three days, then go back to normal water availability.

Watch for signs of abnormally large udders, redness of the udder, and painful udder. These may be signs that the doe has started to develop mastitis. If the udder does not reduce in size within seven days of weaning, there may be a problem. Check the doe's udder. Determine if the udder is abnormally warm and/or has milk that seems to be infected by a mastitis-causing organism. It may be difficult to determine the difference between mastitic milk and milk that is being reabsorbed after dry- off. Usually, mastitic milk will be clotted or stringy and may have a foul odor. Consult a veterinarian for recommended treatments for mastitis. Identify these animals and watch them closely at the next kidding to insure they do not have problems with milk production.

The kids’ health problems generally center around coccidia. Coccidia are protozoa found in the intestinal tract. They are a normal part of the microbial population there. If the animal is placed under stress, the population can climb very rapidly, causing damage to the intestinal lining. This damage can result in decreased performance, reduced resistance to other diseases, and even death.

Coccidia are most often controlled through the use of feed additives. The two major additives used for goats are Deccox and Rumensin. Treatment with these products should start at least two weeks before weaning and continue for two weeks after. This is a minimal recommendation. Marketing strategies may dictate a different approach. Check the product label for slaughter withdrawal times and be sure the time is met before marketing any kids.


Another treatment for coccidia that can be used at weaning is to add Corid or Albon to the drining water or as a drench. Talk to your veterinarian regarding these possible treatments. The water treatment is generally needed for five to 21 days. These products can be used in conjunction with or in place of the feed additives. The advantage is, there is no need for a different feed source. However, read and follow all label directions when using these products.

Coccidia are transferred between animals by a fecal contamination. Because of this possible transmission, it is important to make sure to keep feed and water troughs clean at all times but especially during weaning. With any coccidia treatment program, you may have an outbreak. The major symptom of coccidia is dark, bloody scours, though some kids may die from an outbreak before presenting with scours. If kids are having problems, special attention should be given to them. Kids may show signs of outbreaks at any age, so preventive treatment should be started early. Watch for kids that are not growing properly,especially if they have a rough hair coat during or after weaning.

Other health issues in kids at weaning include other internal parasites or possibly overeating disease. Kids can pick up parasites from pastures before weaning. This is especially a problem for spring-born kids. Because of their size and age, the immune systems for kids are not fully developed, so parasitic problem can be serious. Be sure to start checking kids at least at weaning for parasites and treat those that need it. As always, we recommend selective treatment. We also recommend checking the kids more often than does because they may go down quicker and be affected more severely than the older animals. See Goat Parasites

If overeating disease is a problem, consult with your veterinarian. Vaccinating the kids with the CDT vaccine may the best approach to prevent over eating disease and tetanus.