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  • Constance Wilmoth

CAE and Dairy Goat Management

Goat herd health is essential not only for the health and safety in our goats, but also for my sanity and happiness. Several recent events got me really thinking about the safety and health of my herd, both the health scare with Nanko's bloat and our trip to the show. When we travel with our goats, which I absolutely love, we clean the pens with disinfectant spray, and line the pens with tarps and fresh bedding from our farm, bring our own hay, water feed pans, and water buckets, we also try to avoid close contact with other goats, by using our tack stall as a buffer and avoiding allowing our goats to touch noses with other goats during the show. Although, we do all of these preventative things, there is still concern and risk that things can be picked up at shows.


All of this was meant to say I have decided in addition to doing annual screening on all of my goats that are older than 6 months old for CAE, Jones and CL, I will be now testing on a six month basis. This caused me to do a deep dive to learn more about CAE specifically, because I think this disease is the highest risk of contraction due to the nature of the way I raise my goats. CAE is defined as Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis, this disease can manifest it self in a multitude of ways. The most common way is in degenerative arthritis that usually shows up in goats at 1-2 years of age. This can be noticed by lameness, limping, swollen knee joints, and swellings in other heavy use joints like the neck. This disease can lead to eventual death of the the animals. The main way in which CAE is spread is via milk and colostrum consumption. This means that kids raised in the way that I do, dam raising are much more likely to contract CAE than bottle raised kids. Bottle raised kids must receive only heat treated colostrum and milk in order for the prevention to be effective. In my research, I have also discovered that CAE can manifest as a neurological condition in young kids as well as hard swollen udders with no milk, along with chronic cough. These are less commonly thought of as symptoms of CAE. Goats can be CAE positive on test, and never exhibit any of the clinical signs of CAE, which is why it is important to test, and not use only visual cues as the indicator.


My rationale for additional and more frequent testing is because I do not intend to change the way I raise my goats. I believe in all of the advantages of dam raising kids and I also believe these benefits outweigh the risks. Not only do goats have a strong bond with their kids, but it is generally better from an udder health perspective. The kids are constantly demanding milk and keeping the udder empty which helps to improve the persistence of lactation and helps to boost the overall volume that they doe produces. Additionally, raising my kids with my does allows me more flexibility. I work a full time job and sometimes I want to go away for a weekend. Finding someone that is able to care for my animals is challenging enough, let alone finding someone that is willing and able to milk by hand. So having the kids with their dams allows for flexibility in milking. Moreover,

in my experience dam raised kids are healthier, happier, more growthy kids that are confident and have a better immune response than bottle raised kids.


Overall, there is no perfect solution to this complex challenge, but with a combination of knowledge,management, testing and careful consideration you can successfully manage a happy healthy herd.


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