10 Tips for a Successful Goat Ultrasound
With constantly advancing technology, it is easier than ever to get ultrasounds on your goats. However, not all ultrasounds are created equal. Can you do it yourself? Is a veterinarian the only way to get an ultrasound? There are criteria to follow to get the best ultrasound that you can. Here are ten tips for successful goat ultrasounds.
- Go to someone trained in sonography. Ask others which veterinarian gets reliable outcomes. While all vets can legally use ultrasound machines, there is a steep learning curve in using and interpreting them.
- Ask from which company the ultrasound machine was purchased. While countries such as the US, Canada, and the UK have rigorous testing standards, not all countries of origin will hold their products to a set high standard. More often than not, you get what you pay for. With lower-priced ultrasound machines, there is a difference both in the quality of the picture and in the potential safety of the machine itself. If purchasing your own ultrasound machine, ask the seller if they would use it themselves and what testing has been done to confirm that it is safe?
- Be aware whether the ultrasound machine can run on a battery or if it needs a power source. You may need to run an extension cable to power the ultrasound machine. Even those with a battery may only have enough power for an hour or so, and you may still need a source of electricity if you are scanning a large herd.
- Have the goat restrained and elevated such as on a milking stand. This gives better access to the underside of the goat as well as safety for the person performing the ultrasound. Having an ultrasound performed may be disconcerting to your goat, and they might attempt to escape. Everyone will be happier to avoid a mad chase across the pasture (except for maybe your goat).
- If possible, perform the ultrasound indoors, in a barn, or with a shade covering to see the picture on the screen better as the ultrasound is taken. Some machines can save images or even short video clips, but it is much easier to use the visible image as you go.
- Your goat most likely won’t need to be shaved since they have little stomach hair, but be prepared to give a trim if your goat is especially hairy. If the little bit of peach fuzz is disrupting the image, adding a touch of water to the ultrasound gel can remedy this.
- Know your local laws. In most states, only a licensed vet or the owner of the animal may perform an ultrasound. In other places, a paraprofessional or technician may perform the ultrasound, but a vet will still need to officially interpret the results.
- Aim for the ultrasound to occur at 60-90 days gestation for pregnancy confirmation but they can be performed anywhere from 45-120 days. Determining gender can best be done about day 75 of gestation. Sexing the babies is easier and more accurate when there are only 1 or 2 in there, not that you can choose the number of babies your goat has.
- For easier and more accurate results, have the goat fast 12 hours from food and 4 hours from water prior to the ultrasound because food and especially gas in the intestines will block portions of the ultrasound image.
- Remember to observe proper biosecurity measures. Sanitize equipment, your hands, and anything else that touches the goat. If a mobile vet is visiting your farm, be sure that they clean their equipment before touching your goats, and preferably between each of your own goats. This may not seem important, but many goat diseases can be transferred from the dirt and poop on your shoes to another farm. There are also zoonotic diseases that can transfer from your goat to you.
Using a goat ultrasound to confirm a pregnancy can be more than just sating curiosity for pet owners. Breeding operations need to know if breeding was successful so that the doe can be rebred if necessary. An unbred doe is simply taking up space and food when babies earn your living, regardless of if you are raising dairy, meat, or other goats.
While goat ultrasounds are used most to confirm pregnancy, they can also be used in the case of urinary calculi to find where the blockage may be in the urethral tract. It can also show how full the bladder may be of the urinary calculi stones.
Much like with humans, goat ultrasounds are an excellent diagnostic tool in a variety of cases, but they are often underutilized. As this technology continues to improve in access and ease of use, it is likely that ultrasounds will become quite commonplace in the lives of goat owners.
Livestock Ultrasound FAQ. (n.d.). Retrieved from Farm Tech Solutions: https://www.farmtechsolutions.com/products/training-support/faqs/ultrasound/
Steward, C. (2022, February 12). Research Sonographer. (R. Sanderson, Interviewer)
Stewart, J. L. (2021, Aug). Pregnancy Determination in Goats. Retrieved from Merck Veterinary Manual: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/management-and-nutrition/management-of-reproduction-goats/pregnancy-determination-in-goats
Originally published in the September/October 2022 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.