SAANEN GOATS –General Information (Capra aegagrus hircus)

Among the most famous dairy goat breeds in the world today, Saanen goats that are originally from Switzerland stand out from the rest with their odor-free milks and high milk yields.  The heavy milk producing Saanen does usually yield between 3% and 4% fat.

The Saanen is a typical dairy-type animal, it has a dished or straight facial line and a wedge-shaped body. It is medium to large in size with rugged bone and plenty of vigor.  A typical Saanens doe weighs rougly 65-70 kg. The average height measured at the withers, is about 81 cm for does and 94 cm for bucks.

Does should be feminine, however, and not coarse. Saanen are white or light cream in color.  Spots on the skin are not discriminated against. Small spots of color on the hair are allowable. The coat – all white or all cream- and the hair are generally short and fairly fine although some may have longer hair along the spine, hindquarters, or both. Horns may or may not be present at birth. The ears are generally pointed and erect preferably pointing forward and the head is usually lightly structured. The face should be straight or dished.

Does should be feminine, however, and not coarse. Saanen are white or light cream in color.  Spots on the skin are not discriminated against. Small spots of color on the hair are allowable. The coat – all white or all cream- and the hair are generally short and fairly fine although some may have longer hair along the spine, hindquarters, or both. Horns may or may not be present at birth. The ears are generally pointed and erect preferably pointing forward and the head is usually lightly structured. The face should be straight or dished.

The breed is sensitive to excessive sunlight and the provision of shade is essential.

Saanens that do not like windy conditions are usually very docile animals and like to keep to a routine so are well-suited to machine milking. They quickly respond to affection.

Milk Yield According to the Goat Breeds
Average Milk production (kgs/lactation) Milk production (kgs/lactation) FAT (%) Protein (%)
Alpine 1.025 360-2.400 3.4 2.9
LaMancha 950 335-1.950 4.0 3.2
Nubian 825 250-1.900 4.9 3.7
Oberhasli 970 420-2.000 3.9 2.9
Saanen 1.170 275-2.500 3.3 2.9
Toggenburg 950 430-2.000 3.2 2.7
Source: American Dairy Goat Association, Tragos Goat Farm 

In their prime, many Saanen goats average 3.0 to 4.0 liters of milk daily during a 275 day to 330 day lactation period, giving more soon after freshening and gradually dropping in production toward the end of their lactation.  The peak milk yield is during the 4th and the 6th weeks following kidding, though the quality of feeding is of critical importance during this time to reach the full potential of the animals.  The milk generally averages 3.5% butterfat.  A doe may be expected to reach her heaviest production during her third or fourth lactation.


The high-producing Saanen doe is also an efficient reproducer. She has a docile nature; appear alert and feminine. The udder of a typical Saanen goat should be well developed not fleshy, and have a collapsed appearance and a soft texture after milking. It should be round or globular, and not pendulous or “split” between the halves. A fairly flat udder sole is preferable. The udder should be carried high and well under the body. Good udder attachment is particularly important. The teats should be distinct from the udder and moderately sized. They should be squarely placed and point slightly forward. The jaw should be square (not overshot or undershot) and the teeth should be sound. The muzzle and nostrils should be wide, the lips broad and the eyes set well apart. The neck should be long, slim, of good depth and connect evenly with the withers and shoulders.

The body should be wedge-shaped, well developed and have good height and depth. The chest should be wide and deep. The ribs should be well sprung. There should be no marked dip behind the withers or shoulders. The back should be level from the shoulders to the hips and drop slightly to the tail.

The Saanen doe should stand and walk without dropping at the pasterns. The legs should be clean, long and straight and placed squarely under the body. They should not be cow-hocked. The thighs should be thin, allowing adequate room for the udder.

The Saanen buck’s ability should be gauged by his reproductive performance; that is the quality and performance of his offspring. The buck should have good conformation and depth of body, be masculine but not coarse in appearance and have vigour. The testicles should be of good size, well balanced and firm. The scrotum should be well placed, not divided and allow the testes to hang away from the body, though not excessively.

DSC_3308 DSC_3489
Source: Tragos Goat Farm-Our Own Goats 

Saanen bucks reach puberty at 4-8 months while the period extends to 7-10 months for does.  The birth rate averages to 2.0 while the birth weight ranges in 3.5kg to 5.0kg. Through appropriate feeding, Saanen kids reach 13-15kg by the end of first two months and to 25-35kg by the end of 5th to 7th months of age.  Keeping good weight records is important for proper feeding and medication, besides good management.

As Tragos Farm, which is registered by the Turkish State as the breeder of Middle East adapted Turkish Saanen Goats free from disease; the yield per animal varies from 800-1000 liters per each lactation according to the age of our does.

*Source: ADGA, DGSA, Tragos Goat Farm

Saanen Goats-Essentials of Breeding


Sound breeding policies are central to the success of any goat enterprise.

High quality male goats should be used as part of a breeding programme and these are typically sourced from high quality pedigree herds that can provide several generations of milk recording data and show results as an indicator of conformation and consistency.

It is of course essential to monitor the performance of individuals within any herd and ensure that only the best females are chosen to keep female offspring from as herd replacements.

Artificial insemination is possible in goats, but is labour intensive for the large numbers of goats involved. It may be possible to inseminate a small group of the very best dairy females on a farm with some semen bought in from outstanding dairy males to improve the standard of the herd.

Dairy goats are usually seasonal breeders.  Most breeding occurs in late summer through early winter; late August through January usually. However, goats can also be “fooled” into thinking that the short-day season has arrived by manipulating artificial light-hours per day and thereby initiating estrous cycles out-of-season.

The goat has an 18-21 day estrus cycle or “season” that lasts from a few hours to two or three days. The gestation period is five months. Twins are common, but single or triplet births are not rare. Does milk approximately ten months following kidding, then is held dry for one-two months before her next freshening.

Bucks have a b musk-like odor during breeding season, but are not offensive with prior proper management.  The doe has no odor at any time. Only bucks from high quality parents should be kept for breeding purposes. Artificial insemination is another option.


Yearling kids may be bred in the first year at 7-10  months of age, depending on breed, if they have grown well to about 35kg. and are of good size and condition. Body weight relative to breed is more important than age and can influence lifetime performance. The doe kid may be able to reproduce at three months of age, but should not be allowed to do so, as her growth may be permanently stunted. To prevent this, buck kids should be separated from doe kids at an early age. If breeding doe kids is postponed much beyond 10 months of age, they will be less productive. Older kids are not as easily settled at first breeding and may have lower lifetime productivity.

*Source: ADGA, DGSA, BGA, Tragos Goat Farm

Feeding High Yeilding Saanen Goats

Dairy goats have fastidious eating habits and are particular about the cleanliness of their food. Their natural curiosity may lead them to investigate newly found items by sniffing and nibbling, but they quickly refuse anything that is dirty or distasteful.


The aim should be to keep every goat in the herd in good bodily condition, not too thin and not too fat, all year round.  Good feeding can only be effective as part of a total package of good management, including adequate housing, exercise and health care, particularly the prevention and treatment of parasitic worm infestations.  Food must be stored properly prior to feeding, to protect it from damp, contamination and vermin.  Food must be hygienically presented to the herd with an understanding of goat behaviour so that each animal gets its share.

Good hay is the single most important item of the diet. At least half the diet (on a dry weight basis) should consist of forage.  Green food, concentrates, minerals, vitamins and water are also important, and a balanced and adequate diet is crucial to success.  Any change to the diet fed must be made gradually to enable the population of rumen bacteria to adjust.

Drinking water must be clean, fresh and always available.

It is important to establish a regular feeding routine. Take notice if any of the goats do not eat their food. All goats take a day or two to get used to a new food item; but a goat refusing an accustomed concentrate mixture is probably unwell.

Clean food and receptacles are essential. No goat will touch food or water contaminated with droppings.


It is important to understand that much of the food eaten by a goat which is a ruminant (cud-chewing), is digested by millions of bacteria in the rumen, before reaching the goat’s stomach. The good health of these bacteria is essential to the life of the goat.  Green plants consist largely of a material called cellulose, which is not digested by mammals themselves, but by the bacteria in the gut. In this way energy is converted into a form useful to the goat. Large quantities of plant food (forage) must therefore be eaten by the goat.  Additional energy is provided by eating cereal grains (e.g. oats, barley, maize) and their products. This additional energy is used to supplement the forage diet. The rumen bacteria ferment cereals very quickly, producing acid, and to feed too much grain at one time can prove fatal for the bacteria and for the goat.

The protein content of the goat’s diet also needs supplementing and this is done by adding high-protein foods in careful quantities to the cereal mix. Growth, pregnancy, and especially milk production, all require a greater amount of food each day than that which is required by a goat doing none of these things. The needs of each goat must be matched with the quantity, quality, availability and palatability of its daily diet.


Feeding goats involves combining various feedstuffs into an acceptable and palatable ration to meet nutrient requirements. These requirements vary depending on the stage of lactation, gestation, growth and the season of the year. Since goats are ruminants, they have a unique ability to digest roughages containing a great deal of fiber. Fiber is broken down by microorganisms and provides a source of energy to a ruminant. In essence, the goat (a ruminant) is a host to the microorganisms (bugs); the host provides the necessary materials to the microorganisms to digest, who, upon digesting these materials produce end products that can utilized by the host. The nutrients considered in diet formulation are energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and water. The balance of nutrients will determine the performance, health and financial outlook of a dairy goat.

The Digestive System

A ruminant’s digestive system consists of a four compartment stomach (rumen, reticulum, omasum and abomasum) and the small intestine. The rumen is the largest of compartments and contains many of the “bugs” (bacteria, protozoa, and fungi) that digest the feed. The bugs produce enzymes that aid in the breakdown of fiber.


The breakdown of fiber or cellulose converts to volatile fatty acids which are absorbed through the rumen wall and provide up to 75% of the goat’s energy. Protein is produced by the bugs from nitrogen in the feed. Vitamin K and the B vitamins are also manufactured by the microorganisms. The reticulum (honeycomb structure) is the second area and is just below the opening of the esophagus. The omasum is a small round area which contains hanging layers of tissue. The large surface area of these folds allows for the absorption of moisture and volatile fatty acids from feed. The abomasum is considered the “true stomach”. It functions like a simple stomach in monogastric animals and contains hydrochloric acid and enzymes that breakdown feeds to be absorbed by the intestines the intestines absorb amino acids, sugars, minerals, fats and other nutrients from digested feed.

Feed Nutrients

Energy is the most limiting nutrient to dairy goats. Sources of energy are grass, alfalfa, cereal grains such as corn, oats, wheat and barley and bypass fats. Energy limitations may result from inadequate feed intake, too much low quality feed, incorrect roughage to concentrate ratios. Insufficient energy can lead to weight loss, infertility and reduced production.

Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are vital to all body processes. The term “crude protein” is used to measure the amount of nitrogenous compounds in feed. High quality protein feeds can be found in high quality legume hay.


The Daily Energy and Protein requirement of a 60-70kg Saanen Goat
  Metabolic Energy Crude Protein
  (Kilocalory) (gr)
Requirement for Life: 2.000-2.250 80-90
Pregnancy-First Period 400-500 20-25
Pregnancy-Last Period kid number x (1.250-1,.350) kid number x (60-70)
Milk Production (1 liter and 4% fat) 1.250-1.500 70-80

Minerals are essential to body functions of an animal. Macrominerals are the minerals most nutritionists balance for in a ration because they are usually deficient without supplementation. Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and sodium chloride(salt) would be considered macrominerals. The microminerals or trace minerals would be copper, zinc, cobalt, iodine, selenium, iron and manganese.

Vitamins can be divided into two major groups: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat soluble vitamins are stored in the fat or lipid portion of feed and include vitamins A, D, E and K. The water soluble vitamins are usually met by feedstuffs, rumen synthesis and tissue synthesis.

Water is the most overlooked nutrient. It assists in digestion, assimilation of nutrients, excretion of waste products, control of body temperature, growth of young animals and milk production. Access to clean water is very important in dairy goat production.

Feeding the Milking Doe

Initiation and maintenance of a successful lactation is a result of proper dry doe management. If the dry doe was maintained properly, the metabolic adaptations which occur after parturition should be fairly easy on the doe. After parturition, the doe has a high nutrient demand to support milk production. Several things occur to meet this demand. There is an increase in nutrient absorption by the udder tissue and increased mobilization of minerals (like Ca, P and Mg).

The size of the gut and the absorptive capacity increases to allow for greater absorption of nutrients. To meet a high calcium demand, increased intestinal calcium absorption and mobilization of bone occurs. With proper management in the dry period, this calcium demand can be met without causing problems like “milk fever”.

As the doe reaches peak lactation energy demands follow a similar course. Depending upon the age of doe, peak lactation generally occurs between week 6 and 9 after kidding. Feed intake does not peak until week 12 to 16 postpartum. Therefore, body reserves are used to meet the energy and protein demands for milk production in early lactation.  Approximately half of the 305 day milk is produced during the first sixteen weeks of lactation. The doe’s nutrient intake will not meet her demands until milk has decreased to 60% to 80% of peak.


Early Lactation


For does, early lactation ranges from 0 to 90 days milking. Adaptation from the dry to the milking doe ration should occur over a 7 to 10 day period. This is a critical time for does because they need to be challenged, but dry matter intake lags behind the milk demand. Challenge or lead feeding is necessary to determine the genetic potential of a doe. As a doe freshens, feed a grain mix containing 14% to 18% crude protein (CP) and 74% to 78% energy (TDN) along with ad libitum  (free) good quality hay or forage. The ration fed will vary with the quality of forage available.

The complete diet should contain at least 17.5% crude fiber to maintain a healthy rumen fermentation. As milk increases, increase feed by 450 gr of grain for every additional 1 liter of milk. In challenging the doe, feed an additional 250gr to 450 gr of grain. If the doe does not respond to the additional grain, she may have reached her genetic potential for milk production.

Mid to Late Lactation

Peak dry matter intake is reached in mid lactation and is approximately equal to nutrient requirements for milk production. In late lactation, grain feeding should be equal to milk production. The grain ration should contain 13% to 16% crude protein and about 74% TDN and be fed along with ad libitum (free) good quality hay or forage. Milkers may need to gain extra weight to replenish body stores for the next lactation. It is more efficient to add extra weight to does in late lactation than in the dry period.

Dry Period

The first 0 to 100 days of the dry period may be part of late lactation or the start of the dry period. Proper nutrition is critical during this time because mistakes can adversely affect the subsequent lactation. If the doe has a body condition score of 3.5 to 4.0, it will be easy to maintain her during this time. Feed the forage available, preferably good quality mixed grass hay and/or a high fiber pellet.Grain can be fed during this time according to the body condition of the doe and according to the forage quality but limit grain feeding to no greater than 1% of body weight. The last 50 days of gestation is important to fetus growth. Make sure energy, protein, mineral and vitamin requirements are met in the diet. During the last 2 to 3 weeks of gestation, incorporate a little of the milk doe ration gradually. This will give the “bugs” time to adapt and aid in the transitional period from dry to milking. Grain could be fed at 250 gr to 450gr a day.


Feeding Bucks


Bucks can be fed the dry doe ration if necessary. At least 4 to 6 weeks prior to breeding, bucks should be condition scored. This is the time when additional feed is necessary. Increase the energy of the ration, and feed the bucks according to condition. When breeding season arrives, the bucks will be ready and feed intake may change due to activity. Some research has found additional zinc can increase sperm counts and motility. The macro minerals like calcium, phosphorus and magnesium must be balanced properly in order to avoid urinary calculi.

Body Condition Score Dairy Goats

body-con Source: National Goat Handbook from the University of Maryland, Agriculture Victoria, Tragos Goat Farm

Feeding Kids for Future High Milk Yields

The production of high milk yielding goats begins with the birth of healthy kids that have the genetics of high yielding goats.The firth 60 days after a healthy goat kid is born with sufficient birth weight; requires great diligence because it involves factors that will affect the whole life of a dairy goat, such as colostrum intake, adaptation to milk-milk replacers, initiation of digestive activities, coarse-grain feed adaptation, formation of the immune system, and rapid weight gain.

Kids must receive colostrum immediately after their birth, followed by a sufficient milk diet leading up to weaning.  Kids can become infected with diseases via the navel. You can reduce the risk of this by dipping the navel cord in a solution of iodine and water (0.5% iodine) as soon as possible after birth.  As well as colostrum in the first day or two, kids require milk for at least the first three months of their lives, in addition to a gradually increasing amount of solid food.  When the kids reach the 60th day of their life, given its required vaccines are completed it can be assumed that they have gained majority of their immunity to keep them from bacteria for the rest of their lives.  As of 7th -8th months of age they reach 40-45 kg of weight which make them perfectly eligible for breeding.

As a guide, a typical programme for feeding kids with milk is:
Age of kid Amount & Frequency
0 to 1 week 300 ml. 4 times per day
1 to 2 weeks 400 ml. 4 times per day
2 to 8 weeks Increase to 850 ml. 3 times per day
9 to 10 weeks Decrease to 850 ml. twice per day
11 weeks 500 ml. twice per day
12 weeks 500 ml. once per day
13 weeks onwards solid feeds only

Kid Digestion

A newborn kid’s digestion is different from that of an adult goat. Although a kid has four stomachs, it does not use them all early in life because the digestive system is not fully developed at birth.

Kid Stomach: the omasum and the abomasum account for 70% of stomach capacity; rumen is undeveloped. Goat Stomach: the rumen and reticulum make up 70% of stomach capacity  
kid-stomach goat-stomach

Whereas in the adult goat the rumen and the reticulum (first and second stomachs) make up about 70% of stomach capacity, in early life the position is reversed and the omasum and abomasum (third and fourth stomachs) account for 70%.  The liquid diet of the young kid goes straight to the abomasum for digestion. Kids cannot digest solid feed, particularly starch, until the rumen develops.

During the first two weeks or so, the kid starts picking at dry matter, such as hay or straw, but at first rejects it. Gradually it will swallow some of the material, with the result that the roughage present stimulates the physical development of the rumen; bacteria and other micro-organisms that are present on the dry feed become established as part of the normal rumen environment. From about the third week, the kid starts to nibble at grass, hay or concentrates if they are available, and these pass to the rumen. Rumination, or chewing the cud, follows shortly afterwards.


Kids can be weaned once they have reached about 10 kg. However, the earlier the weaning age, the greater the weaning shock. The weaning weight you choose will usually depend on economic and management considerations.  If possible wean kids at between 8 and 10 weeks of age, or a little older. Weaning can be abrupt, or it can be gradual with milk being withdrawn by restricting the amount fed and the number of feeds per day.

Kids eat solid food from about 1 week of age and are often seen ruminating at about 2 weeks, so it is important to give them good-quality hay or chaff and suitable concentrate from 1–2 weeks of age. You can also rear kids on pellets, which range from 18–25% protein. Usually both hay and concentrates are provided ad libitum. An injection of vitamins A, D and E at birth will enhance performance. Vaccinate kids against clostridial diseases such as enterotoxaemia and tetanus, and you can include a coccidiostat in the solid feed ration.


You can mate replacement does as early as 7 months if they are big enough (35–40 kg). Slower growth until the first mating is not likely to adversely affect their performance, and therefore you can use less expensive feeding regimes to rear replacements that are mated later. Whichever rearing regime you use, make sure you avoid overfatness at kidding, as this can cause kidding problems and may have an adverse effect on milk production.

The growth rates of replacement does can be altered after weaning by adjusting the quality and availability of the concentrate and forage components of their diet.

Rearing Goats with Milk Replacers

Artificial methods of rearing goat kids are widely used in the world and since 2013 at TRAGOS GOAT FARM, too.  They have a number of advantages over natural methods, particularly in more intensive commercial goat-breeding operations.

Kids can be reared economically using milk replacers, and weaned at an early age, 6 weeks or less, if adequately grown. Alternative rearing systems are a high priority to producers of goat milk. The advantages include reduced costs, increased production, and breaking disease cycles. The success of rearing kids using milk replacers requires strict adherence to correct management practices, particularly in ensuring good hygiene in rearing facilities, and cleanliness of feed and feeding equipment. Electronic automatic continuous feeders, which mix and dispense in response to sucking, have been used for large-scale kid rearing, with good results when management has been adequate.   Though, extra care in cleaning large-scale teat feeding systems is required to make sure any bacterial residues are removed from milk lines.

Electronic Automatic Feeder and Teat Bars

You can use artificial methods of rearing goats:
  • to rear replacement breeding and meat kids in the goat dairy when you cannot afford to feed them marketable milk—you can then use this milk more profitably for product and market development;
  • to allow does to be re-mated more quickly if your aim is to increase herd size and maximise genetic progress;
  • to prepare uniform batches of suckling kids for premium goat meat markets;
  • to break disease cycles—certain diseases, such as caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) and Johne’s disease, are spread by infected goat colostrum (the doe’s first milk), by milk, and by faecal contamination of sucked teats;
  • to rear orphans;
  • to ensure the survival of multiple-birth kids.
  • to reduce the workforce requirement.

Health and Disease Prevention for Kids

When feeding and management of kids is good, disease outbreaks do not usually cause problems. In fact, the presence of disease may indicate a fault in management. Drugs may cure disease, but they are a very poor substitute for proper care and management. Nevertheless, most diseases can be treated satisfactorily, so if disease is suspected, make sure you get veterinary advice as soon as possible.

It is necessary to know the temperature, the respiration and pulse rates, and the general appearance and behaviour of a healthy kid:

  • Temperature normally ranges from 38.8°C to 39.8°C. Body temperature is highest late in the afternoon. It can be raised by vigorous exercise or when kids lie in hot sun. Body temperature can be measured by inserting an ordinary clinical thermometer into the rectum, with the bulb touching the lining membrane.
  • Respiration rate is usually between 35 and 45 breaths per minute, but this increases in hot weather or after moderate exercise. Panting is normal in young kids only after very vigorous exercise or after moderate exercise in hot weather. The respiration rate can be counted by observing the number of movements of the chest wall or, if kids are lying down, counting the rising and falling movements of the abdominal region.
  • Pulse rate should be about 60–80 beats per minute. This is most easily counted by feeling the heartbeats through the chest wall close to the attachment of the shoulder behind the elbow.
Normal healthy kids have the following appearance and behaviour characteristics:
  • soft, shiny and pliable coats
  • sleep for several hours each day
  • alert and bright-eyed when awake
  • walk and run freely
  • have a well-filled abdomen
  • droppings are normally soft and pasty.


Marked change from the normal is an early sign of sickness. Disease usually causes increases in body temperature and in respiration and pulse rates, and changes in the appearance and behaviour of kids.

Special care and attention to kids pays off in prevention and control of disease.

  • Kids require warm, dry conditions in cold or wet weather, and adequate shade in hot weather. If kids are housed in sheds, these must be warm, dry and well ventilated. Avoid overcrowding, as it increases the risk of infection and the spread of disease.
  • Small permanent kid pens accumulate a high concentration of infectious organisms, particularly when they are occupied for long periods, so rotation of kid pens is recommended. Good drainage and proper disinfection of pens between batches of kids are essential.
  • Poor nutrition, inadequate shelter, poor hygiene, and internal or external parasites all greatly increase susceptibility to disease.
  • Dirty feeding utensils and permanent feeding sites can spread infection. Make sure that feeding equipment and areas are thoroughly washed and disinfected after each use.
  • Remember, it is most important for kids to get colostrum for at least the first 24 hours and preferably the first 2 days of life, so that they can acquire the immunities it confers.
  • Isolate any sick kids from the main group. Nursing care, good shelter and dry bedding are essential.
  • Disease can be introduced with stock brought in from outside. If other kids are brought onto the farm they should be segregated until you are sure they are healthy and unlikely to spread infection to other animals.
*Source: New South Wales Government, Tragos Goat Farm

Metabolic and Nutritional Diseases In Goats

  1. Kids Diseases Following Birth:
  • Colostrum Deprivation:

Colostrum deprivation is a known condition that results from a lack of colostrum in a newborn kid’s first 6-12 hours of life.  The condition results in a sick newborn, one that does not fight infection well, and one that may not mature properly throughout their life.

Colostrum, the thick, sticky, yellowish “milk” that a dam produces during the first several days after birthing, has a huge significance in a newborn goat kid’s life. Newborn kids are born with little or no immunity to diseases.  Unlike some mammals, a doe’s immunities are not passed on to their offspring through the placenta.  Once a kid is born it has no protection from the environment, be it susceptibility to the ambient temperature or microbes, until a sufficient amount of colostrum is ingested.  A newborn kid should receive approximately 10% of its body weight in colostrum the first day of life, ideally in the first 6 to 12 hours of birth.


If a doe gives birth and cannot nurse her newborn kid, or if the newborn cannot nurse for any reason, getting colostrum into the kid’s system via a bottle is a must.  The best solution is to milk the doe and feed it back to the kid.  If the doe cannot be milked, colostrum from another goat from the same farm is optimal.  Thus the proper anti-bodies, unique to the farm, are contained in the colostrum. The next best first-feeding solution is colostrum from a goat from another farm, preferably a nearby area. It proves useful to keep a frozen bottle of colostrum, or two, in the freezer.

Colostrum is available in powdered form in some countries.  Ready-made colostrum does not provide any life-saving protection from diseases; but it does provide initial nutrition.

  • White Muscle Disease:

White Muscle Disease is seen in kids less than one week to three months in age. This disease is normally noted in rapidly growing, heavily muscled kids that were born to does that consumed rations deficient in vitamin E and/or selenium. Signs are general weakness, poor suckling reflex, stiffness, arched back, “sawhorse” stance, respiratory distress, and sudden death. Prevention method is to supply vitamin E and selenium to pregnant does.  The kid with white muscle disease should be injected with selenium and vitamin E. If the heart has been affected treatment is rarely successful.

  • Scours:

Scours is probably the most common ailment affecting goat kids. Prevention starts with good sanitation. Signs are lack of apetite to the point of anorexia, high temperature, weakness, and watery or pasty feces. However, if outbreaks do occur, get advice from a veterinarian, as correct diagnosis and treatment are essential. Treatment requires antibiotics, intestinal astringents (bolus or fluid to decrease contractions), and fluid and electrolyte therapy.  The importance of correct diagnosis is emphasised by the fact that, although Escherichia coli is the most common cause, scouring can result from any one of the following, or a combination:

  • dietary mismanagement
  • Escherichia coli
  • Clostridium perfringens (enterotoxaemia)
  • Campylobacter
  • viruses
  • Salmonella spp.
  • toxins and poisons
  • Coccidia and other parasites.

If scouring occurs and proper treatment is not given within 24 hours, losses are likely to occur. Kids that scour should be isolated in order to minimise the risk of spreading disease to other kids. Again, glucose and electrolytes should be used to prevent dehydration.

  1. Nutritional Diseases In Does
  • Pregnancy Toxemia/ Ketosis:

Also known as pregnancy disease, ketosis or twin kid disease. Pregnancy toxemia is a metabolic disease of goats in late pregnancy. Factors important in the development of the disease are either the presence of two or more fetuses, undernourishment during late pregnancy when the fetuses have the most rapid growth and/or addition of stress such as severe weather, sudden changes in feed, other disease or transportation upon the previous factors.  The mortality rate is high in affected animals.

As pregnancy progresses, an increasing demand is made on the available blood glucose supply of the doe because of fetal development. The principal source of energy to the fetus is glucose and utilization by the fetus occurs at the detriment of the mother. Glucose requirements during late pregnancy are increased 70-80% over the nonpregnant state since 80% of fetal growth occurs during the last 40 days of pregnancy. The severity of hypoglycemia will be directly affected by undernourishment of the mother or by increased requirements of the fetus(es). As the glucose supply diminishes from increasing fetal demands and decreased glucose production due to undernourishment, energy requirements are furnished by other metabolic pathways, i.e. from free fatty acids and amino acids. Breakdown of the free fatty acids results in increased production of ketones, acetoacetate and Bhydroxybutyrate. As hypoglycemia becomes more severe, the ketone level in the blood increases (ketonemia) and ketosis occurs. As ketosis increases, the bicarbonate level in the blood decreases and acidosis may result.


During the later states of pregnancy toxemia, water consumption decreases, urine output is decreased and kidney function is impaired. The blood sugar level may increase severely (hyperglycemia) during the late stages of the disease as a result of the response of the adrenal glands to stress. Circumstances that cause severe hypoglycemia will usually result in pregnancy toxemia. Undernourishment of the doe may not meet the demands for glucose production.

The level of nutrition should be increasing as pregnancy progresses so that the doe will be able to provide fetal requirements. The doe should be gaining weight during pregnancy. As previously mentioned, multiple fetuses greatly increase the glucose requirements. A gradual onset of undernourishment, as would be seen if the feed intake was not increased during pregnancy, may be tolerated by the doe and toxemia may not develop. However, if the animal is starved for several days, pregnancy toxemia may develop readily. Sudden changes in weather, infections, or transport may result in periods of inappetence and may trigger pregnancy toxemia.

Clinical signs are those observed with involvement of the central nervous system. Initially, the animal tends to separate from others. There is mild depression. Evidence of blindness develops, the animal runs into objects, shows little or no reaction when approached, and wanders aimlessly. Dullness and depression become progressively severe. There is reluctance to move. Eventually, they go down in sternal or lateral recumbency and show little or no response to the environment. The does become comatose and eventually die. There may be quivering, twitching of the ears, muzzle or eyelids or spasms of certain muscles. Incoordination may be evident. Recumbent animals may have convulsive paddling movements. Chewing, teeth grinding or vigorous licking movements may be seen. Mild scouring may be present. A snuffling respiration due to excessive nasal secretion may be common. Drooling of saliva is also seen. Temperature and pulse are within normal limits. Respiration is usually normal until the later stages. The appetite is poor or absent. Ketones may be detected in the urine.

Oral administration of glycerol or propylene glycol or intravenous administration of glucose may be effective in the early stages of the disease. Insulin may be used with these treatments for better utilization of glucose.

An adequate nutritional level throughout the pregnancy will prevent pregnancy toxemia. Protein and energy levels during the last 30-40 days of pregnancy should meet the doe’s maintenance requirements as well as the growth requirements of the fetuses. Management during late pregnancy should be directed at avoiding appetite problems in the animals. Avoid sudden feed changes, diminish stresses of severe weather, delay or avoid transportation and prevent concurrent disease problems.

  • Parturient Hypocalcemia/ Milk Fever:

Paturient hypocalcemia is a metabolic disease in does following kidding characterized by poor milk production, poor appetite, lethargy and low blood calcium levels. Following kidding, most does may have a lowered calcium level in the blood (hypocalcemia). This is partially due to the drain on available calcium by the production of colostrum; as colostrum contains twice as much calcium as milk. Calcium is supplied from either through the doe’s diet or mobilization of calcium from the bone. Normally, calcium requirements following kidding are provided primarily from the diet since mobilization of calcium from the bone does not provide significant amounts until about 10 days after parturition. A loss of gastrointestinal function for any reason, before or at parturition, may cause a severe drop in the blood calcium level. Signs of hypocalcemia may develop. Since older animals have more digestive upsets at parturition, they have more problems with hypocalcemia. A high level of calcium in the ration during gestation places almost complete reliance on the dietary source of calcium. If the prepartum diet is low in calcium, calcium mobilization from the bone is instituted to meet the calcium needs. If a gastrointestinal dysfunction occurs at parturition, the effects are not severe since part of the calcium requirements is supplied by mobilization from the bone.


Usually high producing older does are affected shortly after kidding. The does show lethargy, poor appetite and poor milk production. Occasionally, hypocalcemia tetany may be observed. The doe is hyperirritable and may show muscle twitching of the lips, eyelids and ears. Trembling or twitching of other muscles of the body may also occur. Convulsions may develop. Blood calcium levels may be 5 – 7 mg per 100 ml blood. The response to calcium therapy may be diagnostic.

Administration of calcium preparations, intravenously or subcutaneously, will provide dramatic relief of clinical signs. Lethargic does may begin eating and become more active and alert within 12 hours. Tetany usually subsides in 30 – 60 minutes after treatment.

  • Coccidiosis:

Coccidiosis is a contagious disease of goats, especially young kids. The disease is caused by one or more of approximately 12 different species of protozoa, called Eimeria, which parasitize and destroy cells lining the intestinal tract of the goat. When a young kid is exposed, it may become severely ill 1 – 2 weeks later. It will be off feed, listless, and weak. It may show abdominal pain by crying or getting up again as soon as it lies down. At first, the kid might have a fever, but later the body temperature is normal or even below normal. Diarrhea begins pastey, then becomes watery. The kid may dehydrate rapidly. The diarrhea is only rarely bloody. Neither is straining common. Signs often show 2-3 weeks after the kids are weaned, because the lactic acid produced by the digestion of milk helps to inhibit coccidia in the nursing kid. Young kids may be killed quickly by a severe attack of coccidiosis. Others – those initially stronger or less heavily infected – will develop a chronic disease characterized by intermittent diarrhea and poor growth.
Tails and hocks are dirty. The kid with chronic coccidiosis cannot digest its feed properly because the intestines have been severely damaged. Frequently, such a stunted kid will be too small to breed its first winter. Even though coccidiosis is typically a disease of the young growing kid, most adults are mildly infected and continuously shed oocysts which serve to infect young kids. Occasionally an adult goat shows temporary diarrhea when stressed or exposed to a new species of coccidia. This is especially common after the doe has been boarded on another farm for breeding. Diagnosis of coccidiosis can be based on clinical signs or microscopic fecal exams. Coccidiosis is so common that it should be suspected whenever kids older than about 2 weeks of age are scouring. Sudden dietary changes can also cause diarrhea, but these make the kid more susceptible to coccidiosis. Thus diarrhea that begins with the consumption of too much milk, grain, or lush grass may drag on for days because of coccidiosis. Older kids and adults with diarrhea may have worms rather than coccidiosis, or they may have both problems together.

Whether or not a goat gets sick with coccidiosis depends on several factors. One is the number of oocysts swallowed at one time. Small exposures, frequently repeated, lead to immunity. Large exposures destroy all the intestinal cells at one time and kill the kid. The age of the goat is also important. This is partly because the older animal has usually had time to develop some immunity. Also, very young kids are more fragile creatures. Good nutrition (including vitamin E,selenium supplementation in selenium deficient areas) helps the goat to defend itself against coccidiosis.


Prevention of coccidiosis is very important in larger herds if young kids are to thrive. Several key facts will help to design a prevention program. The first is that the adult goats are the original source of infection for young kids because they shed oocysts constantly. All old bedding and manure should be removed from the kidding pens before the new kids are born. Sporulated oocysts are commonly present on the skin of the udder; thus the kid may become infected at the same time as it takes its first drink of colostrum. The doe’s udder should be washed and dried before the kid nurses or else the kid should be removed from its dam at once and bottle-fed the colostrum. It is best to raise kids completely separate from the adults until they are ready to breed. Fecal contamination of feed and water must be prevented. This means that feeders and waterers should be outside the pen whenever possible, and arranged so that fecal pellets cannot fall in. Grain should be put in keyhole creep feeders rather than the open troughs that kids love to play and sleep in. Hay racks also must be covered to keep kids out. Leaking waterers should be fixed at once. Otherwise, the wet ground or floor around the water source is a perfect environment for oocyst sporulation. It is very important to avoid overcrowding; spreading the kids out decreases the number of oocysts on any given square inch of pen floor or pasture. If many kids are present on the same farm, they should be grouped by age. Putting a 2 week old innocent kid into a pen with kids 2 months old, where coccidial numbers and immunity have been building up for some time, invites disaster for the newcomer. Oocysts are killed by very cold temperatures (far below zero) or by hot dry conditions above 40C. Thus, at the end of the kidding season, pens and feeders should be moved out into the hot sunshine for natural sterilization.

Raising kids separately from adults, keeping pens clean and dry, preventing fecal contamination of water or feed, and, in some herds, continuous preventative medication are necessary to prevent the disease. It is neither possible nor desirable to completely eradicate coccidia from the adult goats. A low-level infection with the parasite serves to keep these goats immunized to the disease.

  • Acidosis/ Grain Overload or Grain Poisoning:

Grain overload (acidosis, grain poisoning) occurs when goats eat large amounts of grain. The grain releases carbohydrate into the animal’s rumen and this rapidly ferments rather than being digested normally. Bacteria in the rumen produce lactic acid, resulting in acidosis, slowing of the gut, dehydration and often death.  Wheat and barley are the most common causes of acidosis.  Crushing or cracking of grain by a hammermill increases the likelihood of grain overload, because these processes result in quicker release of carbohydrates. 
Acidosis is often seen when goats are suddenly grain fed without being gradually introduced to the grain or pellets, there is a sudden change in feeding regimen or in the grains being fed, goats graze newly harvested paddocks (where there may be spilled grain or unharvested areas) or goats get unplanned access to grain or pellets, such as around silos.

Signs of grain overload include depressed appearance, lying down, diarrhea, dehydration and thirst, bloating of the left side of the abdomen, staggery or tender gait and “sawhorse” stance and deaths.

Treatments for acidosis include intravenous fluids, drenching with bicarbonate solution, intraruminal antibiotic injections, thiamine or steroid injections, and surgery for very valuable animals.  Following grain overload, the rumen lining takes up to six weeks to repair, so recovering animals will show poor growth rates during this time.

  • Listeriosis:

Listeriosis is caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, found in soil, water, plant litter, silage and goat’s digestive tract. Brought on by feeding silage, sudden changes in kind of feed, parasitism, dramatic weather changes and advanced stages of pregnancy.  Listeriosis is more common in adult animals than in kids.

Symptoms include depression, decreased appetite, fever, leaning or stumbling or moving in one direction only, head pulled to flank with rigid neck, facial paralysis on one side, slack jaw, and drooling and abortions.


For prevention, goats should be fed no silage unless the producer really knows how to use it, and definitely no silage in the hotter and/or wetter climates. No moldy feed or hay. Clean pens. No sudden changes in types of feed. Lots of free-choice quality roughage, particularly in the latter stages of pregnancy.

  • Enterotoxemia:

Enterotoxemia is a frequently severe disease of goats of all ages. It is caused by two strains of bacteria called Clostridium perfringens – the strains are termed types C and D. These bacteria are normally found in low numbers in the gastrointestinal tract of all goats. These organisms are normally “laying low” in the small and large intestine – that is, they are present in relatively low numbers and appear to be in a relatively quiescent state in the normal, healthy animal. What appears to trigger them to cause disease is a change in the diet of the animal. Most commonly, the change that triggers disease is an increase in the amount of grain, protein supplement, milk or milk replacer (for kids), and/or grass that the goat is ingesting. Collectively, these feeds are rich in starch, sugar, and/or protein.

Enterotoxemia in goats drive the animals to abruptly go off of feed and become lethargic.  Affected animals may show signs of stomach pain, such as kicking at their belly, repeatedly laying down and getting up, laying on their sides, panting and crying out. Diarrhea may develop; in some cases, there is blood visible in the loose stool. Animals may lose the ability to stand, lay on their sides, and extend their legs, with their head and neck extended back over their withers. This posture is caused by the effects of the toxins on the brain. Death commonly occurs within minutes to hours after this sign is seen. Because enterotoxemia can progress so quickly, animals may be found dead with no previous signs of disease.

Prevention of enterotoxemia is far more likely to be successful than trying to treat the disease. Vaccination is the cornerstone to prevention of this disease.

  1. Mastitis in Goats

Mastitis may be defined as inflammation of the mammary gland caused by specific disease producing microorganisms. Mastitis in dairy goats is a disease of considerable economic importance. Infection is usually spread from infected to non-infected susceptible animals during the milking process.

Healthy dairy goat herds can be expected to produce milk with a somatic cell count under 500,000. The presence of mastitis infection in dairy goat herds is reflected in bulk tank milk samples with a somatic cell count exceeding 1,000,000 cells per milliliter.


Mastitis in dairy goats is usually the result of defective milking management which gives the organisms responsible the opportunity to spread and produce disease.  Adequate sanitary preparation for milking which results in clean dry udders, clean milking equipment, use of milker’s gloves, and dry bedding are fundamental requirements for mastitis prevention. Regular use of the California Mastitis test and/or Somatic Cell Counts can successfully monitor the progress of mastitis control and the health status of udders in the herd. Antibiotic udder treatments available are excellent for treatment of infected mammary glands, but success with their use is determined by the level of milking management and sanitation used in milking the herd.

  1. Contagious Agalactia

Contagious Agalactia is primarily a disease of dairy sheep and goats and is characterized by an interstitial mastitis leading to a loss of milk production, arthritis, and infectious keratoconjunctivitis. Contagious agalactia is principally caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma agalactiae, but in recent years, M mycoides capri (Mmc; formerly known as LC), and, to a lesser extent, M capricolum capricolum (Mcc) and M putrefaciens have also been isolated from goats with mastitis, arthritis, and occasionally, respiratory disease.

Contagious agalactia has been reported in many countries surrounding the Mediterranean, in particular Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Turkey, Israel, and North Africa, as well as in many parts of the Middle East, most notably Iran, India, Mongolia, and parts of South America.  The incubation period ranges from 1 wk to 2 mo and can be followed by either an acute disease with fever, neurologic signs, and occasionally death; or more commonly, a subacute or chronic disease characterized by mastitis, arthritis, and infectious keratoconjunctivitis. The infection begins as an interstitial mastitis giving rise to a hot, swollen, and painful udder, followed by a sudden drop in the quantity and quality of milk production. The milk may appear discolored and granular, separating into watery and solid phases, or take on a thick, yellow consistency with milk clots obstructing the teat duct. After several days, the affected udder shrinks because of damage to secretory tissue. Generally the clinical condition improves after a few weeks, with partial restoration of udder function, but the quality of milk remains abnormal.

Arthritis can be seen in goats who find it difficult to keep up with the flock; affected animals may be seen limping or sitting on their carpal joints because of the discomfort. In these animals, the joints are hot, swollen, and painful. Conjunctivitis presents as a discharge of clear exudates from the eyes, followed by corneal opacity.  Severe cases may result in irreversible blindness.

When a flock is severely affected, clinical diagnosis is easy; the three major signs—mastitis, arthritis, and keratoconjunctivitis—are generally present, although rarely in the same animal. Vaccines containing two or three of the causative agents are the best solution.

Source: New South Wales Government, Merck Veterinary Manual, DeLaval Best Practices Manual, Tragos Goat Farm

Broadly speaking, biosecurity is a set of measures for protecting a population from infectious and contagious diseases at the national, regional and farm level. Biosecurity is proactive and focuses on routine, day to day on-farm activities to protect the health of the herd by limiting the transmission of infectious agents that can cause disease in a farm or herd. Infectious agents are generally invisible, and can be moved from place to place in organic matter and on a wide range of materials that are frequently present in farming environments.


Biosecurity in Goat Farms

Biosecurity management practices prevent the spread of disease by minimizing the movement of biologic organisms and their vectors (viruses, bacteria, rodents, fl ies, etc.) onto and within your operation through animals, vehicles, visitors, personnel, pests, and other means.

While developing and maintaining biosecurity is difficult, it is the cheapest, most effective means of disease control available, and no disease prevention program will work without it.

Biosecurity may keep your farm protected from intentional or unintentional tampering with the farm, animals or equipment which may instigate a disease outbreak.

Disease is generally spread in the following manner:

  • The introduction of diseased goats or healthy goats incubating disease;
  • Introduction of healthy goats who have recovered from disease but are now carriers;
  • Vehicles, equipment, clothing and shoes of visitors or employees who move between herds;
  • Contact with inanimate objects that are contaminated with disease organisms;
  • Carcasses of dead cattle that have not been disposed of properly;
  • Feeds, especially high risk feeds which could be contaminated
  • Impure water (surface drainage water, etc.);
  • Manure handling and aerosolized manure and dust;
  • Animals other than goats (horses, dogs, cats, wildlife, rodents, birds and insects).

There are three components of biosecurity:  Isolation; traffic control and sanitation.


Isolation prevents contact between animals within a controlled environment. The most important step in disease control is to minimize commingling and movement of goats, including all new purchases. New goat arrivals should be kept separated, preferably in a separate building, from goats already present for a period of at least 14 days. Animals already in a herd that become sick -coughing animals and animals with diarrhea- should be removed from the herd and placed in a separate building.  Separate equipment should be used for caring for animals in hospital pens and manure and bedding should be handled separately to avoid cross-contamination.

Traffic control includes traffic onto your operation and traffic patterns within your operation. Traffic includes more than vehicles; all animals and people must be considered. Traffic control should stop or minimize contamination of milk, goats, feed, feed handling equipment and equipment used on goats or to process milk.

Sanitation addresses the disinfection of materials, people and equipment entering the operation and the cleanliness of the people and equipment on the operation. Sanitation prevents fecal contaminates from entering the oral cavity of goats (fecal – oral cross contamination). All equipment that handles feed or is introduced into the mouth of goats should be cleaned, including disinfection as appropriate, before use. Loaders used for manure or dead goats handling must be cleaned thoroughly before using for feedstuff. It would be best to use different equipment.

To secure biosecurity:

  • Verify identity of any unknown contractors or vendors.
  • Restrict movement of visitors and their vehicles to areas where they cannot contaminate livestock.
  • Have all visitors including regulatory inspectors wear visitor passes.
  • All medications should be secure.
  • Protective equipment should be available, in place and functioning.

Basics of Goat Barn Requirements

Dairy goats are kept successfully in all climates. They do not need elaborate housing, but do require clean, dry, well ventilated, draft free shelter. Dirt pen floors are preferred over cement. At least 15 square feet of bedded area should be provided for each goat. The outside exercise lot should provide a minimum of 25 square feet of space per animal, well-drained and properly fenced. Dairy goats have a b herd instinct and prefer the companionship of at least one other goat.  Bucks should be kept in separate quarters away from milking does.


Basic accomodation requirements can be listed:

  • A dry, draught free building to shelter from the elements and sufficient headroom for the goat to stand upright on its hind legs with neck outstretched.
  • Enough height, also, for the goat keeper to work standing upright.
  • If penned separately each goat should have about 4 sq. m. of floor space.
  • Pen and door heights vary according to breed and 1.3 m. is a recommended average, greater/less height being necessary for some breeds/goats.
  • Goats like to see each other, even if penned separately, so provision needs to be made for this in the type of partitions/gates used.
  • A well-fenced exercise yard is needed at least three to four times the area of the penning.
  • If the goats are housed in a group in the same area a minimum of 2 sq. m. per goat needs to be provided, although more than this minimum is recommended if bullying is to be avoided. Horned and disbudded or hornless goats should be penned separately.
  • A dry area to store straw, hay and other goat feed.
  • A nearby fresh water supply placed properly so that goat feces do not enter the water supply.
  • A means of disposal of soiled bedding.
  • Mains electricity for lighting.

A clean and a separate area from the barns for milking is a must. The milking parlour is a key facility that contributes to the success of a dairy goat enterprise. Milking is a labour intensive process and automation such as automatic cluster removal, feed metering linked to automatic identification, milk metering and teat spraying systems all help the stockman to focus on the animals. Milk metering enables accurate assessments of yield and can provide useful data to indicate potential health problems such as mastitis and can be used to target feeding to higher yielding goats.

Regular management tasks to maintain a healthy and productive herd of goats includes bedding, feeding, foot trimming, vaccination and milking. Clean bedding is essential for clean milk production to ensure that goats arrive at the parlour with a clean udder and teats to reduce the amount of preparation for milking that is required.

Regular foot care is necessary to maintain healthy movement and therefore production. Goats with overgrown feet will spend more time laying down rather than feeding and cudding to produce milk.

Regular vaccination against common clostridial diseases is advised to reduce losses through illness.

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