When Should You Use Lutalyse for Goats?
Discussing the Balance of Using Lute and Goat Labor Problems
Reading Time: 6 minutes
In 15 years — and hundreds of goats — we’ve used Lutalyse for goats twice.
One was an extreme winter and our first kidding with an older doe that was showing signs of ketosis and hypocalcemia. With the volume of kids she was carrying, she simply could not consume enough food energy to maintain warmth, the developing kids, and herself. We could perform a c-section and try to save the kids, but risk losing the doe, or induce labor/abortion to try to save the doe and risk delivering kids before they were viable. We pasture-breed, so we only have approximate windows for kidding. Doing nothing we would lose them all, so we opted for induction. We were instructed to let the doe go no more than 36 hours from induction, and to assist if labor began and the doe dilated. We pulled three kids — 11.1, 10.6, and 7.6 pounds. The doe and one baby survived. It was a miraculous outcome under the circumstances.
The second time we used Lutalyse for goats was unsuccessful. We had purchased a bred doe. She went into labor and did not progress. The vet was unavailable for a c-section and sent us home with Lute and dexamethasone for induction. The induction was unsuccessful. We lost the doe and all of her kids. Not because of the Lute, but because she did not dilate.
There are risks to using Lute and other drugs. We prefer to avoid intervention in our herd unless there is a clear, unmistakable risk not to intervene.
In all of the forums, you’ll see reference to “Lute” — and have probably wondered and even been confused — about how the same injection used for abortion is also used for conception.
What Is Lute?
“Lute” is a shortened term for the brand name Lutalyse® for the widely used prostaglandin dinoprost tromethamine.
Healthnet.com defines a prostaglandin as, “One of a number of hormone-like substances that participate in a wide range of body functions such as the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle, the dilation and constriction of blood vessels, control of blood pressure, and modulation of inflammation.” Prostaglandins are used in the treatment of a number of conditions including fertility, glaucoma, eyelash growth, and ulcers.
Dinoprost tromethamine is naturally produced in the female uterus during estrous — the reproductive cycle. If conception has not occurred, its function is to “lyse” — or dissolve — the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum is a mass of cells that forms in the ovary to produce the hormone progesterone which thickens the uterine lining to maintain pregnancy. Dissolving the corpus luteum affects the uterus, signaling the body not to build the uterine lining and begin the cycle again. It does not directly cause ovulation.
Producers have found that if this hormone is administered to a herd, they can synchronize estrous for more controlled breeding to capitalize on limited availability of a buck, or schedule a technician for artificial insemination. Breeders can also time and plan kidding windows for markets, or breed does out of season. Since it forces the doe into heat, the eggs released initially may not be viable, so the protocol is to induce two cycles before breeding.
Corpus luteum defects result in fertility issues for a doe. Defects can be caused by stress, body mass index/nutrition, prolactin levels (hormones associated with milk production), thyroid disorders, including iodine deficiency, a short luteal phase, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (cysts). A doe is called cystic when the corpus luteum fails to dissolve and instead forms a fluid-filled cyst, which alters the secretion of reproductive hormones. Cysts can result in false pregnancies, pregnancy loss, mummified fetuses, and infections. Lutalyse for goats can be effective in changing phase length and well as addressing “cystic” does and has been shown to help some does “reset” hormonally and resolve some fertility issues. Since Lute does not directly cause ovulation, a gonadotropin hormone may also be needed to resolve cysts and trigger ovulation.
In some circumstances, such as when a small breed is inadvertently bred to a large breed, or a doe is unintentionally bred, or there is a health risk to the doe if a pregnancy is carried to term, Lute injections can be given to trigger absorption of the embryo or abortion, depending on when it is administered.
Lutalyse for goats is can also be used when a doe is not progressing or is overdue, to induce labor. Knowing when a goat is overdue is not a straightforward calculation of days from when a doe was bred. A due date with a doe is as inexact as it is with a woman. Induction should only be done if the doe is at risk, not simply by a calculated due date. An error in math or observed breeding can result in a heartbreaking outcome.
Lutalyse is not labeled for use in goats in the United States, and as such, must be used under the advice of a veterinarian. It should be handled with caution as it is readily absorbed through the skin and may cause bronchospasms. Women of childbearing age can experience miscarriage through inadvertent contact.
Not all producers endorse the use of Lutalyse for goats. Craig Koopmann Pleasant Grove Dairy Goats Epworth, Iowa has raised Registered French Alpines and Registered American Saanens in a commercial setting since 1988. “I have a unique herd; I use drugs as minimally as possible. Regarding Lutalyse, even with breeding 400+ does every year, I average about three does a year that get a shot of Lutalyse to bring into heat. And I try to let every doe kid naturally — I’ve let does go to day 162 without inducing them and not having any kidding issue.”
Lutalyse is a valuable tool for many goat producers. It can save lives, and simplify management for some producers, but it can also result in unintended consequences and death. Is it overused? Craig Koopmann believes so. “I think people overuse a lot of drugs in goats. And the reason I think they do is because they want to control everything. And that just is not possible with any livestock.”
As with any intervention, do your research, consult your veterinarian, and evaluate the risk.
Jolene Brown, Everhart Farm in Casa Grande Arizona recounts her first experience with Lutalyse for goats:
“These were my first goats. I had bought my doe knowing she was being bred in September. Figuring she was already pregnant, I bought a buck in mid-October and never once saw him get my doe. So fast forward to February. She had blown up and her breathing was becoming labored. I called the vet. I figured she was just taking a few extra days and I just wanted confirmation of a due date.
I had no plans of inducing her but the vet was adamant that we induce her for her own safety. She did an ultrasound and said the placentomes were measuring at over 155 days. At 158-160, to be exact. She suggested induction fearing my doe would have complications if we waited any longer to let these babies get bigger. She told me she suspected that there were only two to three babies. And they were big already. I took her advice and I agreed to induce her. At 9:30 am on 2/25, she got 10ml of dexamethasone. I was told at 3:30 pm to give Lutalyse to begin the induction. I did just that. Her bag filled completely within eight to 10 hours and she was so uncomfortable. She was crying out for me to come love her and comfort her. I sat with her all day to be by her side and she just seemed so miserable. I waited and on 2/26 at 10:30 pm she started pushing.
Once the first baby came out, I knew something was wrong and the due date was wrong. It had to have been my buck to get her pregnant in the middle of October. She still had three to four weeks left, it seems. I did absolutely everything I could to save these babies. Heat lamps, nose suctions, dopram under their tongues to make them breathe. Everything. It just didn’t work. I have a strong suspicion that their lungs were not developed at all and they still had a couple of weeks to go.
Being a first-time goat mom, I learned a huge lesson. One that has caused heartache and tears. I know the vet had the best intentions and she has been amazing trying to help me figure out what happened. But from now on, I will always let Mother Nature work her magic and I will definitely never be inducing ever again.”
Karen Kopf and her husband Dale own Kopf Canyon Ranch in Troy, Idaho. They enjoy “goating” together and helping others goat. They raise Kikos primarily, but are experimenting with crosses for their new favorite goating experience: pack goats! You can learn more about them at Kopf Canyon Ranch on Facebook or kikogoats.org
Originally published in the May/June 2020 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.