Categories: Articles, Stock and game farmingPublished On: 17th December 2020

Goat production guide -Part 4(i): Common diseases that can infect your goat farm

By 6 min read

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Sick animals do not produce as much as healthy ones. That is why it is vital for a farmer to keep an eye out for disease in his flock. Apart from expensive medicines, the loss of production, or loss of the animal and its genetic potential in case of mortality, are things that farmers would rather avoid.

Prevention is definitely better than cure. There are vaccinations available to inoculate your flock against the most common diseases. You need to consult a veterinarian to find out which diseases are most prevalent in your area. The vet will then also be able to assist you in compiling a vaccination schedule for your animals. A number of common diseases affects goats, and farmers need to know how to prevent and/or treat them.


Signs of heartwater in the live animal:

The organisms that cause heartwater are transmitted by bont ticks, which are mainly found in hot, dry bush areas. Heartwater can result in death within 24 hours, but some cases survive 2 to 5 days. Affected goats have very high temperatures, and show nervous signs: high-stepping jerky gait, shivering, walking in circles. Later, jerky, paddling movements with the legs and the head pulled backwards when the animal goes down.

Signs of heartwater in the dead animal:

The dead animal will have excessive fluid in the heart sac, lungs, chest cavity and abdominal cavity. To prevent heartwater, try to maintain the animals’ immunity by letting a small number of ticks stay on the animals all the time. However, when there are visibly many ticks on the goats, dipping about once a month may be necessary.

Goats that have grown up in a heartwater area are more resistant to the disease. If an animal dies of heartwater, dip it to kill the ticks on its body. The ticks are infected with heartwater and will infect other animals if they bite them. Vaccination against heartwater is possible, but it is complicated and expensive, so, speak to your veterinarian about this.

Treat the animal early before nervous symptoms show. Use short-acting Terramycin three days in a row, or the new drug, Doxycycline. Use an intravenous injection if you can, otherwise intramuscular.

Dosage rates: Adult goats: Inject 5 cc daily for 3 days (intramuscular injection). For a kid administer 2,5 cc daily for 3 days. Dosage rates will vary depending on the brand of the medicine that you buy. It is always important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions along with the instructions found on the product label.

Some farmers prevent heartwater outbreaks by treating young goats with a dose of long acting antibiotic when they are going to be exposed to ticks. This is called blocking.


An abscess is a swelling caused by bacterial infection. It is hot, red, and painful. It can be caused if a thorn or a tick breaks the skin and the bacteria then enter the wound. Control excess ticks and maintain general hygiene. If an animal has several very bad abscesses or gets abscesses often, it should be culled to prevent financial losses.

Open and drain the abscess when it has a yellow spot on it or when it softens. This can be done by cutting a cross over the soft spot. Use a boiled razor blade to cut the abscess. Then inject warm (boiled) water with a lot of salt in it (1 tablespoon of salt in a cup of water) or iodine into the wound.

The wound must be kept opened and it must be flushed daily with warm salt water to remove pus. Use gloves when handling the abscess. Bury or burn the material used to wipe the pus. This can infect other animals and people. Always boil the razor blade before using it. The goat can also be injected with an antibiotic to aid recovery.


Signs of diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be the symptom of a disease. There are many different causes of scour, and each one can cause a different kind of runny stomach.

They can include:

• Smooth, yellow diarrhoea

•Smooth, white diarrhoea

•Whitish diarrhoea with lumps of thin skin in it

•Red or brown diarrhoea, which may mean blood in it

•Scours can be caused by a change in food source or diet

Regular treatment for worms will prevent scours caused by worms. Where scours are caused by nutritional changes, feeding some sort of nutritional supplement in winter will help with prevention. A good general treatment is a mix of one tablespoon salt, and 8 tablespoons of sugar in one litre of clean, warm water. For young animals that have not been weaned, feed this mixture twice a day instead of milk (but not for more than three days).

Only when there is blood in the diarrhoea, do you inject with a long acting antibiotic or give a dose of Terramycin powder mixed with water.

Hi-Tet 200 LA dosage:

Intramuscular injection. 1 ml/10 kg live mass. Repeat after 3 days if necessary.

Terramycin powder dosage:

Mix with water and give as a drink. 1 level teaspoon powder/7 kg live mass. Repeat daily for 3 to 5 days.

Imodium tablets for 3 to 5 days: half a tablet per day


Coccidiosis is a disease that mainly affects kids and lambs. It is caused by an organism known as coccidia which is most commonly found in communal drinking water. Older animals can become infected, however due to immunity they develop over time, clinical signs do not show. Older animals are normally the source of infection for the younger animals as they are carriers of the disease.

Symptoms of coccidiosis in the live animal:

This disease normally affects young animals. It attacks and destroys the mucus of the intestines, which leads to animals having diarrhoea and an inflamed intestinal linings. This is different from scours. An outbreak is characterised by a short period of diarrhoea and then animals die quickly. Symptoms include:




•Lack of appetite

•Loss of condition

•Rectal straining (this may lead to prolapse)

•A rough hair coat

Signs of coccidiosis in the dead animal:

Tiny, greyish white spots are often visible in the mucous membrane of the small intestine. Guts are filled with fluid and blood. Sick animals should be separated from the rest of the flock to prevent spread of the disease. Hygiene

is important for preventing outbreaks of coccidiosis. Pens must be clean and dry. Kids should not mix with older goats, and should not have access to contaminated feed and water. Coccidiostats such as Rumensin can be fed at times when disease outbreaks are common to prevent the disease. Give Sulfazine 16% as a drink.

Sulfazine 16% dosage:

Initially give 14 ml/10 kg live mass. Then give 7 ml/10 kg daily for two days. Where there are outbreaks, treat all females and kids with Sulfazine.

Other treatments:

Immodium for 3 to 5 days (0,5 tablets per day)

Vecoxan: 1 ml/2,5 kg live mass body weight at about 4 to 6 weeks of age for all kids.

The goat should also be given water with electrolytes to prevent dehydration. A good general treatment is a mixture of one tablespoon of salt and 8 tablespoons of sugar in one litre of clean, warm water. For young animals that have not been weaned, feed this mixture twice a day instead of milk, but not for more than three days.

The information in this article is credited to Mdukatshani, Heifer International South Africa and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Rural Development who published the Goat Production Handbook in 2015.


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One Comment

  1. MT KWAMONGWE 2nd October 2023 at 07:57 - Reply

    This is an easy to follow guide for some of the most common small livestock illnesses that is written in simple easy to read language.
    Pls keep up the great effort to assist farmers

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