Kat’s Corner: Goat Bloat and Summer Heat
Watch for Goat Illnesses and Symptoms During Hot Weather
Reading Time: 5 minutes
By Katherine Drovdahl MH CA CEIT DipHIr QTP
Will feeding the peels from my canning projects cause goat bloat? And how can I keep my goat healthy during hot weather? Katherine answers reader questions about caprine health in each issue of Goat Journal.
Q: I’m canning and want to give the peels and cores to my goats. Can I?
A. What to feed goats when it comes to kitchen waste is a bit of a science and an art. Anything that has deteriorated in quality should visit the compost pile instead of being fed to your goats because it could cause acidosis or goat bloat from fermentation in the GI tract. That includes cull fruit as well as peels and cores that deteriorated because they sat out too long. Also, I would avoid giving anything to my goats that may have had herbicides or pesticides applied to them. Remember, as always, that you need to only give them a snack or treat amount of any food that isn’t a part of their daily diet. Even if they aren’t poisonous plants for goats, the risk of not being careful can lead to acidosis, goat bloat, enterotoxemia, and/or death. I feed orange and banana peels, pear and apple cores and peels, kiwi peels, grapes, and things like that frequently. Do not feed cherries or fruit that could accidentally still have a pit in it. Small seeds like apple seeds are fine: they will not cause a cyanogenesis problem in your goat as it’s not a free-floating form like in pit fruit tree leaves. It’s more like consuming apricot seeds using them that way. If you are feeding grapes, it’s imperative that your dogs not have access to them, to protect them from a kidney disaster.
Q. How can I tell if my goat is overheating?
A. When looking after goats during the warm months of the year, this is an important concern. Goats tend to be at their best in temperatures ranging from 40 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. In the warm months of the year, I want my goats’ body temperatures to stay at pretty close to 102.5. If they are over that and I didn’t just see them running, then I’d be suspicious of an overheating issue or of an infection in the goat. Once temperatures hit the mid 80s or do fast temperature jumps, the possibility of overheating becomes greater, especially for the Swiss breeds of goats. Goats that are overheated will first have an increase in respiration or breathing rate. You’ll notice if a goat is breathing fast just by comparing it to others. I know, at that point, to assess the goat for any noticeable issues and to also keep my eye on it. If I see a goat breathing with its mouth open on a hot or hot humid day, I know I have a super stressed goat and it’s most likely from the heat.
Q. How can I cool my overheating goat?
A. Water! If I can, I take the water to my goat, as moving them when overheated causes muscle movement, which creates additional heat. But sometimes you have to take the goat to the water. If I can, I hand-carry cool drinking water to my goat to see if I can get them to tank up first. Any leftover cool (not ice cold!) water, I dump along their spine down their back. Then I’ll lead the goat over to a hose and start hosing them down, starting at the feet and working up to the belly, neck, and body. I also then will add 60 drops of Eucalyptus globulus essential oil, which is a refrigerant, to one quart of water and spray it onto the goats. I have been at fairs up to 114 degrees Fahrenheit where I’ve had to hose goats down two and even three times in the same day. I have yet to lose a goat to a heat incident at a show or while hauling, even through deserts. Never, ever, ever ignore an overheated goat. Time is of the essence in this situation, just as it is for a human.
Q. How can I keep my goats cool when the weather is hot?
A. There are several things I do in my herd when looking after goats on hot days. First: as summer weather approaches my area, I’ve already been clipping my goats with a size four or five blade to get excess hair off them. I start with the rump and bellies once we start hitting 70-degree days and, by the time we hit 80s, I would have all of my herd shaved body-wide. We also provide shade for our goats and we open up some of the closed-off areas of the barn to provide for more air movement in the summer and, of course, we offer clean fresh cool water daily. Some people will add misters to their barn but we’ve never needed to do that, even when we lived in Southern Oregon, where summer can be stinking hot for months on end. If some of your goats’ forage can consist of fresh green pasture, they will increase their liquids by that contained in the grass as opposed to dry matter such as cured hay. Dried hay will create a lot of extra heat in the rumen, as it breaks it down. Fresh grasses and plants, being softer and containing water, don’t create as much heat while breaking down, making live pasture and living shrubbery preferred for summer feed.
Q. I’m getting ready to apply an oil-based natural insecticide to my barnyard. Is this safe for my goats to be around?
A. No. Not even if it’s “natural.” First off, there are literally thousands of ingredients that don’t have to be posted on a commercial label. There is also no legal definition for the word “natural.” Mercury and arsenic are natural substances. Even if it is an otherwise responsible product, there is no way to limit the amount of exposure your goats would have to it at a time and their exposure will accumulate in the liver. The liver will then try, as long as it isn’t overwhelmed, to metabolize out the oil-based products. Another consideration is protecting your first-trimester pregnant does from products of this nature. First-trimester exposure has the greatest opportunity of causing birth defects in your kids.
Q. I’ve been told my hand strength is making my doe’s udder lopsided. Is that true?
A. Maybe. The answer is “no” if you are taking additional time with your weaker hand to make sure you have milked out that side as well as the other half. The answer is “yes” if you are grabbing udder tissue/teats too hard or if you are pulling the teat tissue down while you milk. Push up into the udder and then squeeze BELOW the base of the udder when you milk; do not literally pull the teats down like you see in cartoons. This is especially true in the beautifully elastic and soft-textured udders that dairy breeders aim to produce. I have seen one doe’s udder ruined over a couple of months by a milker who wasn’t paying attention and used the wrong technique while stripping the udder with their left hand and was milking part of the udder instead of just the teat. That udder floor stretched and ruined the beauty of that generations-bred-for udder on that half.
Do you have questions about goat bloat, keeping your caprines healthy, or other goat-related issues? Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Katherine, her husband, LaManchas, gardens, and other farm critters bask under the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. Katherine is the author of The Accessible Pet, Equine and Livestock Herbal and The Accessible Guide to Livestock Aromatherapy. She owns www.firmeadowllc.com which offers consultations, unique herbal products, and her books to grant hope in wellness challenges to farmers and their creatures.
Originally published in the July/August 2018 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.