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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys I am wondering if anyone can shed some light on what has been happening to my goats...
in the past month I have lost 3 kids that were born in February. A singleton doeling and twin bucklings, all by the same buck.
None of the kids showed any sign of illness previously and were all a healthy weight and lively. All were up to date with worming and vaccination.
The first two deaths, I found the bodies in the mornings, with no signs of struggle, scouring, discharge or anything else obvious, and they had been completely fine the night before.
However the latest to die (today) I found this morning alive but very very sick. Unable to stand, weak sad bleat, floppy, struggling to breathe. I rushed him to the vet, which is half an hour away. By the time we got there I believe his brain may have been starved of oxygen to the point that he was brain-dead as his pupils weren't dilating and he was unconscious. The vet examined him and straight away found that he had a very low body temperature, was cyanotic, unresponsive and had a severe heart murmur that was causing his heart to fail. Since he was beyond feeling pain I had a listen with the stethoscope also before we euthanased him, and the heart murmur was very loud and pronounced. A real whoosh.
The vet thought probably a congenital heart defect aka a hole in the heart. His pick was maybe Patent Ductus Arteriosus.
It seems to me the two other kids most likely died of the same problem.
Now I need to know the likely cause of the problem, and if there is anything that can be done.
One possibility I can see is that it might be genetic in origin. The breed of these goats is Rawhiti, it's a very rare New Zealand breed. They are descended from 12 does and 1 buck that were taken from the wild in the 1990s (their story is here http://www.rarebreeds.co.nz/rawhiti.html
and here http://tehuafarm.com/pluck/?file=kop2.php ). My breeding goats are about as unrelated as can be managed within the breed, but obviously they do share some great-grandparents. I will be asking other breeders if they have had any similar problems (I know of one breeder who has) and mapping this onto the breed pedigree.
The other thing I wondered about was the cardiac form of WMD. Can this cause a massive heart murmur/ valve damage but no other symptoms? As in, no stiff legs or other classic WMD symptoms. I live in a selenium-deficient area and I suspected my goats of being selenium-deficient recently (one doe had retained placenta) so dosed with an injectable a couple of months ago, but presumably if this was the cause the cardiac damage would have been inflicted when the kids were younger and could not be fixed.
Other info that might be useful to those who are willing to share their thoughts: all of the deceased kids had normal poop - the latest one pooped as I loaded him into the car and it was standard issue poop. The stud buck definitely doesn't have a heart problem, I know this as I had to take him to the vet a couple of weeks ago because he broke a leg trying to steal food :rolleyes: and as a matter of course they listened to his heart before sedating him. The dam of the twins didn't have a heart problem as of a year ago, when she saw the vet for a minor respiratory infection. The dam of the singleton probably doesn't have a heart problem as she is 5 years old and going strong. Some other rawhiti breeders have reported sudden deaths of young goats in their flocks, and some kids suffering a failure to thrive. Their causes of death remain undiagnosed. The breeder whose problems I know most about, lives in an area that is not especially selenium deficient but probably a bit sub-optimal for goats. Not sure of whether she supplements. Pretty much the entire country of New Zealand (it's a small country) suffered a severe drought over October 12- Apr 13. I expect the nutritional quality of our grasses was affected, it was pretty straw-like for a while there. The vets have not been terribly interested when I raised the possibility of mineral deficiency, but did provide me with a selenium+B12+cobalt injectable which I used 5 weeks ago as mentioned above. Most of the vets at the practice have very limited knowledge of goats - this is really mostly a sheep/beef farming area. They have not proposed doing blood panels on my goats but I could bully them into it?
So anyway that's a really long post (especially for a first post!) but I'm trying to get as many of the details that might help in there. If anyone has had similar problems with their goats, I'd like to hear about their experiences. Any wisdom/sympathy gratefully accepted.
Goaty kisses
Emma
http://www.rarebreeds.co.nz/rawhiti.html
 

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Goatless goat momma
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welcome to the forum, and i'm so sorry for your losses :hug:

i'm fairly new to the world of goats, so I can't help you with my personal experiences. but, maybe there's a genetic defect that the buck and that particular doe both carry?
 

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Goat Girl
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It sounds like it could be a defect, especially if the goats are so closely related. If other breeders are having the same problems, it might be time to look into adding an outcross and breeding back up to purebred status. Do you have any other kids by this buck? If you do I would check their hearts also and see if they too have a murmur.

I do know with camels they can have sudden death due to selenium deficiencies. It probably wouldn't hurt to have your remaining goats tested for their selenium levels and see if maybe that is a problem.
 

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Do you give your goats extra selenium?

If there was a drought, then that certainly could affect the vitamin quality of your browse. Also if you are selenium deficient, then you may need to give extra selenium with vitamin E. Usually heart murmurs are congenital. My vet calls the bad heart murmurs "student" murmurs because a first year vet student can detect it. But obviously something is going on if all your kids have heart murmurs this year.

I would start with supplementing your adults with vitamin/mineral supplements. I would definitely get selenium in them and make sure you also get extra Vitamin E too since the E helps them absorb selenium better.

We have a nice oral multivitamin supplement in the states called Replamin Plus. Not sure if you can get something like that in New Zealand. But there are people in the states that are giving it to their goats weekly and seeing very good results. I started using it weekly but have gone to monthly and have also liked the results.

I would probably start with giving your goats supplements and make sure their selenium and copper are good. Then if you have problems next year, you may want to look at your buck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hi guys thanks for your kind words. Yes ksalvagno it was a student murmur all right, I could hear it loud and clear and I am not a vet or medically trained. The vet rang this morning, after I left he decided to carry out a necropsy. His finding was Dilated Cardiomyopathy - essentially that is a very enlarged, floppy heart hence the murmur. He says it is congenital or can be caused by oleander poisoning (which I can rule out). I did ask him if it could be associated with mineral deficiency and he said "definitely not". However a bit of Google shows that DCM is definitely associated with insufficient selenium, to the point that an infamously selenium-deficient area in China calls it "Keshan Disease" in humans because it is so prevalent. And yes, it does occur in livestock. But in humans at least it can also occur for genetic reasons. So I think I need to call the vet again and hit him up about it, and get some bloods done. My goats were last dosed with selenium a couple of weeks ago. Other than one doe having a retained placenta, they have not shown signs typical of selenium deficiency such as stiff legs etc, although I ended up giving one of my neighbours pet lambs a jab of selenium because he clearly had WMD, was all arch backed and stiff legged, so you can see it is an issue in this area. I don't think the vets here are all that familiar with the requirement for goats, and that they are making recommendations based on what is appropriate for sheep.... since they had me use a sheep product at a sheep dose. Can anyone point me in the direction of some info on appropriate serum selenium levels and supplementation that is goat-specific? And then I will call the vet and talk his ear off about it!
 

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Goatless goat momma
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still so sorry for your losses, but i'm glad there are some answers!

i'm not sure what the appropriate levels are. maybe do some searches in the forum. I know there has been many discussions about selenium on here.
 

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I give BoSe shots 3 times a year. I have started giving my girls a BoSe shot right before breeding and then another shot at 6 weeks before kidding. Then about 5-6 month after last shot I give them another.

I am experimenting with not doing the 3rd BoSe shot since I am giving them Replamin Plus. But will do BoSe for the pregnancy part.

BoSe is a selenium injectable that we use. We dose it at 1cc per 40 lbs. Usually kids get 1/2 cc for full size goats and 1/4 cc for miniature goats.
 

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This is a link to an article I read recently on WMD. It talks about the cardiac related selenium deficiency and mentions blood levels of selenium deficiency. The article is mainly about sheep but I do think it offers some good information on the heart related WMD.
Hope it helps...
www.sheepandgoat.com/articles/WMD.html
 

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Dave (TDG Farms) S.E. Washington State
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Correct me if I am wrong, but I think retained placenta is a serious sign of selenium deficiency isnt it?

I would just like to say bravo chatoyance. You were present with a serious problem and took the correct steps in finding out what was the problem. AND THEN went farther to make sure your vet was correct. You coulda just stopped at the putting down of the goat and the word of the vet as most would but you didnt. My hat off to you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Correct me if I am wrong, but I think retained placenta is a serious sign of selenium deficiency isnt it?

I would just like to say bravo chatoyance. You were present with a serious problem and took the correct steps in finding out what was the problem. AND THEN went farther to make sure your vet was correct. You coulda just stopped at the putting down of the goat and the word of the vet as most would but you didnt. My hat off to you.
It can be, which is what makes me suspicious. Getting bloods done next week. Is there any other blood work I should ask for?
 

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Crazy Goat Lady
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I agree with Karen. Although I just give 2 Bo-Se shots/year. 1st about a month or so before I breed them. Then again 30 days before kidding. I was having too many "weak legged" kids being born.

Are you giving free choice minerals? I would be concerned about the genetic component in this issue. I would consider using another buck on the does that produced the kids that died and see if the condition occurs again with them. Somebody correct me if I am wrong...if they do not have a heart problem, doesn't mean they don't have the a defective gene. But, when both parents have a "bad" gene, their offspring may inherit the "bad" gene from both parents and therefore develop the heart problem.

Congrats for choosing an endangered breed. How did you decide on that breed? Do you have a problem with adding an outcross breed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hi guys. The goats have free access to a mineral block, however I don't think it's all that suitable for them given it is a multi-species block. Also I doubt that their soft little tongues can lick it off the way a cow or sheep would. I am trying to track down some caprine-specific loose mineral in New Zealand, seems to be quite hard to find in my part of the world. I am actually considering having a look at the analyses of some horse loose mineral mixes if I can't get caprine, to see if any are a close match for caprine mixes or at least better matches than what I can currently get.
Am taking 6 goats from the herd to the vet tomorrow to get bloods done. I will have him listen to the young ones hearts as well.
If our buck is a carrier of a faulty gene I think that is very bad news for the breed, as ours is one of the least-used bucks in the breed - basically if he is producing genetic problems with my does it suggests the breed is absolutely riddled with the defect. Given that there were only 12 foundation does they are all pretty closely related.
There is another breeder that I know for sure is having some similar problems, she has a buckling with a heart murmur at the moment although I don't know if it is the same heart defect, and she has had several sudden deaths. She has been far more affected than I have. She has had some other issues though with kids being sick right from day 1 which I have not had, also losing young breeding does, so it's hard to say if it's the same thing until the vets know a bit more. She has also lost goats that were part Rawhiti part other breeds which I have not as yet. My does are basically the same breeding as hers but my buck is less-related (as much as Rawhiti can be!).
For my own part I have lost a pair of twins and a singleton, all about 7 months old and all apparently healthy previously. My adults are all fine, some middle-aged. This seems quite strange to me that if it is a genetic disorder it should not appear in previous generations?
We are trying to get other breeders information together to see if there appears to be a systemic problem. Some of the breeders are a bit allergic to computers so I may have to do a phone-around....
Di, I chose Rawhiti for a couple of reasons. One is that they are better-adapted to local conditions than other breeds apart from the couple of other New Zealand feral breeds (there is a meat breed, Kiko, a two dairy-ish breeds Arapawa and Auckland Island, and a breed Waipu that is like an old-fashioned kind of Mohair). Rawhiti are unique among these breeds in that they are miniature (about 2ft at the withers for a mature buck) but retain their dairy characteristics - that is, for the amount of feed you put in you get the same amount of milk as you would for a high-solids dairy goat such as a nubian. They also barely need their feet trimmed, hardly ever suffer from foot and skin problems such as footrot and scald, and they are generally more resistant to parasites than your average goat. This is quite important in New Zealand where almost any pasture you care to name has been grazed by sheep at some stage! They also grow quite a lot of cashmere over winter which keeps them toasty but moult to a light silky coat over summer so they don't overheat. Also and very importantly of course they are super-adorable and to know one is to love one! Here are some photos of my lovely Rawhitis so you can admire their gorgeousness
 

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Goatless goat momma
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they're so cute!!! and sound like they're very soft!

has any of the Rawhiti breeders crossed the breed out with Nigerians or Pygmies just to get some new blood in there, and breed them back up to almost pure breed? get some new genes in there...

I hope your boy doesn't have the defect! keep us updated
 

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I completely believe in a genetic flaw in the line. I also feel as if mineral come into play as well. Intricate read and an interesting problem, only thing is...I wish you wouldn't have experienced this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
they're so cute!!! and sound like they're very soft!

has any of the Rawhiti breeders crossed the breed out with Nigerians or Pygmies just to get some new blood in there, and breed them back up to almost pure breed? get some new genes in there...

I hope your boy doesn't have the defect! keep us updated
I don't think anyone has crossed with nigerian or pygmy, simply because there are hardly any of those in New Zealand. I have a 1/2 saanen 1/2 rawhiti and her twin boy and girl that are 3/4 rawhiti. Clover the halfbred looks like a tiny saanen but her kids look like rawhitis. Clover is kind of awesome because she is the perfect mix - she gives a heck of a lot of milk for a wee little goat on her first lactation (1.5L a morning with leaving her twins on during the day and she weighs <30kg, please excuse metric measurements!) but she has much better feet and better hardiness in general than a saanen would. My friend who has had the severe problems, has crossed some of hers with ferals. Sadly this has not been too successful, there is a week-old halfbred that looks to be not long for this world. I hear he is weak and tachycardic. I know another breeder who has crossed with angora, I am not sure if he has had any health issues with the crossbreds. Rawhiti are basically descended from Old English, of which there really aren't any left in New Zealand, or I would likely introduce that line if genetics is the problem. The other good options for outbreeding might be British Alpine or Arapawa. Arapawa would be closer in size but not as good dairy-wise, BA better dairy but quite a lot taller. Trying to get a time to take the goats in to the vet for bloods. My buck has his leg in a cast from an unfortunate attempt to steal food, it should be ok to come off this week so that's when we will do it. The nice thing about tiny goats is you can get a lot of them on a trailer, or a couple in the back of an SUV!
 
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