Guidelines for Vaccine and Antibiotic Management

Guidelines for Vaccine and Antibiotic Management

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Goats significantly contribute to the economy and food supply chain in many countries. While the U.S. goat industries are relatively small, they are still important. Goats are a significant source of protein, especially in artisan, ethnic, and specialty markets.  

But for goats to take care of people, people need to take care of them, and this starts with good health. Judicious use of vaccinations and antibiotics is a cornerstone of animal husbandry, but these products will only be effective if they are properly managed and handled. 

To keep both food and animal safe, every goat herder must take their animals’ health seriously. Follow appropriate care as needed and do so under the supervision of a veterinary professional if necessary. 

Consider both disease prevention and treatment. This safeguards your animals and others they may contact in the food supply chain. Understanding vaccinations, antibiotic use, and how to store and handle them will be a boon to your health program. 

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Vaccination Decisions 

While it is a niche corner of the veterinary world, multiple vaccines, antibiotic brands, and varieties are available specifically for goats. The choices you make about which vaccines to administer come down to practicality and economic values. 

Recommendations can come from fellow breeders and a goat-savvy veterinarian; this may not be a neighbor or the local vet. Your regional goat clubs and breed associations can direct you to a small ruminant practitioner suited to your needs. Before you approach anyone, be armed with information. What diseases are at risk in your specific region? What vaccines may be required if you plan to show goats, cater to 4-H/FFA kids in your area, or sell goats at sales barns? Are there any restrictions on specific treatments? 

When developing a vaccine protocol, include a “core” vaccine for CD-T (Clostridium perfringens types C and D plus tetanus). For pregnant does, administer the vaccine 30 days before parturition. Vaccinate kids at 5–6 weeks; give a booster at 3–4 weeks, and then again as an annual booster.  

In addition to this “core” vaccine, consider adding the following vaccines in a herd protocol: rabies, caseous lymphadenitis, sore mouth, footrot, Chlamydia, Leptospirosis, Mannheimia haemolytica, and Pasteurella multocida. Remember that these may be relative to your region and your long-term plans. 

Don’t Forget Antibiotics 

Unlike vaccinations, antibiotics are more often reactive measures than preventative measures. However, antibiotics are sometimes used in prevention. 

Unfortunately, some of the most common products in the livestock market aren’t directed toward goats. One of the most widely used and known antibiotics is penicillin. For goats, use requires veterinary approval, and long-term use of penicillin is not FDA-approved. But under the discretion of your veterinarian, it is wise to keep penicillin on hand for various illnesses, including respiratory diseases, various infections, and pinkeye. 

There are also several more powerful antibiotics approved for cattle that many producers have found effective in goats. However, always speak with your veterinarian. If your vet is unfamiliar with goats, find a small ruminant practitioner willing to give you some consultation, even if you are not a regular client. They can advise you about off-label usage and the correct dosage to apply.  

 Appropriate Usage 

A big part of making vaccines and antibiotics work is managing, handling, and storing them accordingly. Good management includes having a schedule (for vaccinations) that coincides with the year or life cycle events such as birth, pregnancy, drying off, etc. Management for antibiotics might look like a treatment protocol for certain symptoms, keeping track of veterinary consultations, and following milk or meat withdrawals. 

Vaccinate newly acquired bucks, does, and kids without previously known vaccination records to ensure they are also ready for the breeding or show season.  

Be sure that everyone with access to antibiotics, vaccines, and other veterinary products is mindful of their proper usage. This includes dosage, route of administration, and when to use. Keeping a binder or spreadsheet inventory of the products you keep on hand is a good idea. Identify label/insert information, routine protocols, and your veterinarian’s contact information. This is especially important for all prescriptions you keep on hand. In a different place, record all your treatments for each animal and maintain records for at least a year. 

Storage and Handling to Preserve Integrity 

Proper storage and handling keep vaccinations and medicines effective. 

Time and temperature are two of the most significant factors impacting the life of vaccines and antibiotics. Keep track of expiration dates in your medicine cabinet and throw away anything past its date. 

Additionally, purchase your products from reliable distributors that follow storage guidelines. Make sure you have an appropriate and designated place to store them according to their labels. For example, refrigerated products should have a separate refrigerator when possible. If not, have a dedicated spot to put them in your primary one, away from food items. 

Likewise, keep products stored in your barn away from sunlight and direct heat or cold and free of dust. Bottles freeze over the winter, which significantly reduces their effectiveness upon thawing.  

When selecting syringes and needles, ensure they are the appropriate size for administration. Dually, properly dispose of used needles where they can’t cause contamination or pose a risk to people or animals. 

No matter the size of your herd, vaccines and antibiotics are powerful assets to maintain overall herd health. And while your protocols and methods will be unique to your situation, it is essential to follow the universal standards for the responsible use and handling of all veterinary products that pass through your hands. Not only for safety, but it will also save you time, money, and many headaches. 


  • Tizard I. R. (2021). Sheep and goat vaccines. Vaccines for Veterinarians, 215–224.e1. 
  • Goats. (2019, August 14). Goat Vaccination Program. Goats. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from  
  • Kopf, K. (2022, March 17). Goats, vaccinations, and injectables. Backyard Goats. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from  
  • Ward, M., Cox, S., & Wenzel, J. (2020, May). Sheep and Goat Vaccine and Health Management Schedule. New Mexico State University. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from  
  • Schoenian, S. (2002). Healthy Animals Produce Healthy Food. Healthy Livestock. Retrieved November 28, 2022, from  

Originally published in the March/April 2023 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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