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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What could be causing sores on the head like this? I don't think it is from head butting. Is it a fungus? What should I check for?

About a week ago, one of our two 9-month-old Oberhasli wethers, Tom, exhibited a raw sore on the top of his head. Seeing a bit of red on the head of young goats who butt heads together is not a new thing. But the placement of these sore spots is further back than usual, so it made the ranch manager bring it to our attention. By the time we got to see it, Tom's head had a circular raw bald spot on his poll, well behind the usual injury spot around his disbudding scars (picture attached). Thinking this was simply an odd wound, we patted it with disinfectant wound powder and went on with our lives.

A week later, we see his brother Huck, who has been showing an occasional runny nose without fever in the chilly (for California--lows just above freezing) and rainy weather we have been having, now has something going on on the same part of his head. Though I have not seen them playing head-butt recently, I don't see all, so it could be a physical injury. Yet Tom's "wound" has not re-opened, as I would expect if they had been going at it, but looks like a crusty scab (no photos yet). Tom and Huck share the same enclosure and feeders with 8 other kids (2 wethers, 6 does) of 3 different dairy goat breeds (Nubian, La Mancha, Saanen). None of their pen-mates exhibit anything like this.

The ranch manager is suggesting that they have ringworm. It doesn't look like cases of ringworm I have seen before, so I'm dubious. On the other hand, I'm a relative newbie to raising goats. Could it be the fungus known as ringworm? What else might it be? Should I be worried?
 

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This doesn't look like a fungal infection. I'd suspect an injury as the cause. Either from head butting or some other item in the pen. I guess I'd start by checking for something sharp in the top of the feeders, maybe a nail poking through, where they could hit it with their heads or maybe they are rubbing their heads on something sharp. Mine like to rub their heads on the edge of the barn.

If you figure out what caused it make sure to let us know...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Sorry to take so long to post the results... :roll:

Diagnosis.
We had involved two vets who disagreed on the best treatment but seemed to agree on the cause: infection by staphylococcus aureus.

Further spread.
The sores were eventually transmitted to about half of the kids who shared the same pen. One pygmy goat in a neighboring pen displayed cysts on the belly which were not shown to be symptoms of the same infection. No other symptoms were found on the dairy or pack goats.

Treatment.
A few goats were treated by their owners with antibiotics, per the first vet's recommendation. Goats that were treated with antibiotics healed faster than goats that were not treated. On careful inspection of the whole herd, one adult doe appeared to have healed from the same without treatment before we had noticed any problem.

All symptoms were cleared up by mid-March.

Details of the diagnosis.
We collected samples from one goat who had raw sores about 10 days after we first noticed sores on his brother. The lab detected high concentrations of staphylococcus aureus, and no indications of fungus. The staph tested sensitive to all common antibiotic agents; we consulted a local vet by phone, and she recommended subcutaneous penicillin injections. By that time, the first two cases were healing well with just topical betadyne treatment, but new cases were immediately started on antibiotics.

A few days later, about 18 days after the first alarm, a vet examined the whole herd on-site. He agreed that these sores were caused by staphylococcus aureus. He recommended against use of antibiotics and gave a long lecture [which i felt was a bit like the new convert preaching to the church old-timers] on the development of resistant strains. Apparently he had recently attended a "bio-security" conference, and on his lips hung the new buzz: "Mersa... mersa... mersa." :eek: [MRSA, methycillin-resistant Staph Aureus] The fact that the early tests had shown the bacteria to be non-resistant were irrelevant to him. :?

So how did this minor blight come to our herd? The thought was that the bacteria were able to infect due to small abrasions that are normal on the heads of butting goats. The bacteria are part of the normal "flora" on the skin of humans, and so petting by visitors who don't first wash their hands may have introduced it. (Two of our friendliest wethers were the first to show symptoms.) The cold, wet weather at the time made conditions perfect: moisture good for the bacteria, lowered resistance in the animals.

Treatment recommendations.
Our second vet recommended the following: Help the sores dry out and let the goat heal naturally, if possible. To that end, clip away hair and dab the sores with hydrogen peroxide or betadyne daily. Encourage the exfoliation of the scabs, but not to the extent of opening up a wound. Exposure to sunlight and dry air would be the best cure. Salves or bandages were contra-indicated by both vets.

Process changes to prevent future outbreaks.
As recommended by our bio-security-conscious vet, we now make visitors wash hands before petting animals, as well as after. Our community "petting zoos" now require the use of antibacterial lotion (alcohol, mostly) on entry and exit. We tried --but discontinued as impractical--maintaining baths of disinfectant for washing shoes on entry and exit to our community ranch. (This would have little effect on staph transmission, but could prevent other infections known to be tracked on shoes that visit multiple farms.)
 

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Re: Staphylococcus aureus.

Good information Douglas! Thats a first for me, we've had goats a long time and have never had that issue. I would guess multiple goats developing the same type of sore would be a pretty good indicator that something is going on.

Thanks for the update and detailed treatment info!
 

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THis sort of staph infection is very common in dairy goats who are being handled and milked one after another. It can get so bad that the dairy people have to start culling for it. It will also be spread in the milk dumped on the dairy property and can cause problems for other goats from a buildup in the soil.

A couple of other things to add to this very good post. This predisposition to staph can run in bloodlines, and resistance can be helped along by making sure the goats are getting enough copper in their diet. Goats who are not getting adequate minerals may not be getting the copper they need to prevent breakouts.

This subject is currently being discussed on the saanentalk list.
 
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