Goat Blood Testing – A Smart Move!

How to test for CAE in goats and other diseases.

Goat Blood Testing – A Smart Move!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Cappy Tosetti

What is goat blood testing, and why should you do it? Where can you find goat testing lab and how do you know what goat diseases to test for?

Ask anyone who raises goats what matters most. Without hesitation, the unanimous answer is keeping a healthy herd. Maintaining their comfort and well-being is important, beginning with proper shelter, nutritional feed, water, fencing, and pasture.   

A veterinarian with an interest and knowledge in goats is a plus. One concern is understanding more about goat blood testing for pregnancy and disease. It can seem complicated and overwhelming, especially when it comes to gathering blood samples, but he/she can explain the process. Testing laboratories can also help. 

“We’re here to answer any questions,” explains Amardeep Khushoo, Ph.D. at Universal Biomedical Research Laboratory (UBRL) in Fresno, California, “There’s a saying I like to share that emphasizes the importance of being proactive when taking care of one’s animals: ‘A stitch in time saves nine.’ It’s wise to make effort now, instead of waiting and wondering about what might happen in the future.” 

Understanding more about biosecurity is vital. Both Dr. Khushoo and his laboratory assistant, Omar Sanchez, strive in making the process manageable and convenient. They’ve created a website built on comments and questions from 15 years of helping clients understand more about herd health and well-being for goats, sheep, cattle, and horses. They suggest learning what diseases are prevalent in animals and keeping up on current issues. Whether using a state-operated facility or privately owned laboratory, it’s best to research and learn more about why these tests are necessary. 

  • Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL) 
  • Caprine Arthritis/Encephalitis Virus (CAE) 
  • Johne’s Disease  
  • Q Fever 
  • Brucellosis                                                                                                       
  • Blood Pregnancy Testing 
  • Milk Pregnancy Testing 

Two words to remember when it comes to testing goats for disease: crucial and contagious. It’s crucial to protect every animal, whether one has a few for pets, or a larger number raised for meat, dairy, or fiber production.   

Contagious literally means communicable by contact — capable of being transmitted by bodily contact with an infected animal or object. Humans can also be susceptible when tending to animals or inhaling infectious airborne particles. No one wants to experience the consequences of any disease running rampant.   

An understanding of the goat diseases to test for is paramount. Read pertinent information from testing laboratories, veterinarians, breeders, books, and magazine articles here in Goat Journal. 

Here’s a start about two contagious diseases: CL in goats, a bacterial infection, can spread to all mammals, including humans, through unpasteurized milk and seeping pus from external abscesses in the body’s lymph nodes. Without testing, one might not initially know an animal is affected because the infection can spread internally through the lymphatic system and mammary glands. CAE in goats, a slow-growing virus, spreads from dam to kid through colostrum, so testing before a goat gives birth can allow one to save the kids by pulling them aside and bottle-feeding them heat-treated colostrum. 

goat-blood-testing
Goat blood testing photos by Montero Goat Farms.

It’s also smart to be aware of any regional outbreaks in a particular area of the country. A few years ago, the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University (WSU-WADDL) in Pullman, received an increased number of inquiries in the Pacific Northwest about Q fever — Query or Queensland fever. It’s a bacterial infection affecting goats, other animals, and humans. Q fever is caused by Coxiella burnetii found in the placenta and amniotic fluid of infected animals. The bacteria are transmitted through the urine, feces, milk, and fluids from giving birth. Humans can contract the disease when breathing in dust contaminated by infected animals.   

What to do if one’s goat tests positive?  If the disease is contagious, the animals affected will need to be culled — removing them from the herd by humanely administering euthanasia. It’s a heartbreaking decision, but it’s important that the rest of the herd survive. 

Depending on a specific case when the situation is not life-threatening, there are choices to be made. For many larger commercial operations, it’s usually the animal’s demise. For owners who have fallen in love with a pet goat, it can be a different decision. 

Search “goat blood testing” online. There are numerous privately operated facilities, and most states have laboratories located within university agricultural and veterinary departments.

One woman had a goat that tested positive for Q fever. Both Dr. Khushoo from UBRL and the state veterinarian called to discuss her options. Since the goat had been tested twice, and had the same levels of antibodies each time, the situation indicated that it was a past case that had already been dealt with via antibiotics. The state veterinarian said there was no need to remove her from the herd, but precautions were necessary; her milk needed to be pasteurized. That particular goat has since not given birth, and is not in milk. She is healthy and happy and enjoying life on the farm. If a dam is pregnant, it’s important that she kids in an area that can be sanitized later. One needs to wear gloves, disposing of all fluids/placenta and soiled bedding. 

A goat pregnancy test allows one to make informed decisions about care. One owner has a doeling with a precocious udder, meaning she produces milk but was not intentionally bred. If she’ s pregnant, she should NOT be milked, but instead, kept on grass hay to avoid milk fever when she delivers. If she’s not pregnant, the owner can take advantage of that precocious udder and receive good milk without needing to rehome any kids.   

Learning More 

Each laboratory will explain more about their collection kits/supplies, submission forms, turnaround time, pricing, and shipping information. Your veterinarian or vet tech can come out to the farm to draw blood on each animal, or you can save money by learning the procedure from the staff or an experienced breeder, sending the samples directly to the laboratory. 

For more information: Search “goat blood testing” online. There are numerous privately operated facilities, and most states have laboratories located within university agricultural and veterinary departments. One can also contact The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with offices and regional resources in each state. Gather information. Research websites. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident in choosing a laboratory to help with health issues.   

Advice from a Goat Owner 

Keeping up with health issues is essential. Breed associations, county extension agents, and experienced goat owners are a great resource. Thanks to social media, it’s easy to connect and gather vital information. 

One such individual is Shannon Lawrence, owner of Yellow Rose Farm in Shady Dale, Georgia, where she has raised award-winning Nigerian Dwarf goats since 1997. In between daily milking chores, Shannon produces a line of goat’s milk soap and beauty products that she sells locally and online. She also teaches two popular hands-on classes at her farm, “Goats 101 and 102,” for individuals starting off in the business.   

“We all strive for the same thing — a healthy and happy herd,” says Shannon, “It’s important to be informed. Ideally, a person starts this learning process long before acquiring any animals. I like to suggest joining a club, researching breeds, and thinking about what they intend to do with their goats. It’s great if one can visit some farms, especially if there’s an opportunity to observe when blood is drawn on their goats. Knowledge is a key ingredient to success.” 

Goat blood testing issues are often a subject of surprise with new goat owners. It’s one of the first things Shannon discusses, emphasizing the importance and necessity of gathering blood samples annually from every goat over six months of age. Some goats can test negative for years, and then suddenly the results show up positive, which then can affect the entire herd. 

Shannon continues, “Reputable breeders and responsible goat owners want to protect their animals and breeding programs from infiltration of disease. It’s up to us to be diligent and proactive in every aspect of our operation. Together, with the help and guidance of veterinarians and testing laboratories, we have a better chance of keeping our herds healthy and safe.” 

Originally published in the September/October 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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