What You Need To Know

This page contains articles written by Tamara Rousso for Ruminations Magizine.  This page will be updated with new material from time to time - always a work in progress!  Please do not reprint without our express permission.  Linking back to this page is welcome.

Contents (in order):
Buying Goats 101
Registering Your Goat

Buying Goats 101

You’ve done your research, you’ve made your choice, and now you are ready to start building your Nigerian Dwarf herd.   While it may seem like getting the little doe advertised “to a good home only” in the classifieds, or going to the auction would be a smart way to start cheap and build up, this strategy could end up costing you more in the long run.  It could even cost you your herd.

Like all animals goats are subject to a variety of illnesses, but there are four that have devastating consequences.  They are CAE, Johnes, CL, and Mycoplasma.   These diseases bring with them the heartache of seeing an animal suffer, tough decisions regarding culling, and large expenses in treatment.

CAE or Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis is a retrovirus not unlike HIV in humans.  It is NOT transmissible to humans.  But like HIV in humans it can be elusive and affect your goat’s ability to fight off other disease.  CAE is incurable.  It may cause death in young kids, or a goat can go years without exhibiting symptoms.  When the disease does become symptomatic the infected goat may exhibit any or all of the following: large swollen knees that are painful due to arthritis, the udder may become hard and not be producing much milk, and they may develop incurable pneumonia.  Infection is transferred between animals through secretions with the main route being infected dam to kid.  An infected dam should never be allowed to nurse her kids.   Testing can be done for CAE, and is up 95.2% reliable with the ELISA method.

Johne’s (pronounce Yo-nees after the German veterinarian who discovered it) is a fatal bacterial disease of the intestinal tract.  It may also be referred to as paratuberculosis.  It can occur in almost all domestic and wild ruminant species and occasionally non-ruminant species.  It is slow to develop, resistant to antibiotics, and contagious.   While it needs an animal host to multiply it can survive in soil or water for over a year.  Unlike some other ruminants, goats seldom exhibit diarrhea when infected with Johne’s.  Often the only sign is weight loss in a goat with a good appetite.  An infected animal shedding the bacteria in its manure, and then another animal ingesting it while grazing, causes the spread of Johne’s.  There is some evidence that an infected doe may shed it directly into her colostrum/milk.  It is not known whether or not this may play some role in the development of Crohn’s Disease in humans.  Treatment for Johne’s is very expensive and requires months.  Treatment is only palliative and not a cure.  The best way to avoid Johne’s is to buy animals from herds that are tested.

CL or Caseous Lymphadenitis is a chronic, contagious disease caused by the bacterium Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis.  It may also be referred to as psuedotuberculosis.   There is no cure.  This bacteria causes abscesses that will initially be visible on inspection, but as the goat ages the abscesses will also move to internal organs.  It may cause weight loss, decreased milk production, pneumonia, and neurological signs. It is highly contagious, and spreads as abscesses break open and drain into the environment.  The bacteria can survive in the environment for at least a year.  It is important to remember that CL does not cause all abscesses.  If you have a goat with an abscess it is best to consult your veterinarian.  CL can infect humans so always wear gloves if handling the abscess.  Avoid buying stock with abscesses present unless the seller’s veterinarian will certify they are not CL.

Mycoplasma is a slow growing microbe with hundreds of different types and strains. Depending on the strain of Mycoplasma  it may cause septicemia, conjunctivitis, mastitis, arthritis, and pneumonia.  It can be highly contagious, and cause high morbidity; although some herd owners report that they are managing herds with Mycoplasma without serious consequence.   Mycoplasma is shed in body fluids, but will not live in the environment long.  It is a difficult organism to test for and because of this herd owners do not routinely do testing.  When buying animals ask the seller if they have ever had an outbreak of Mycoplasma.

To rule out any of the above, when possible, visit the breeder and see if the herd appears healthy. Some questions to ask the seller: 

-Is it possible to speak with their vet regarding herd health?

-When was the herd last tested for CAE and Johne’s?  (Annual testing is not necessary in a closed herd)

-When testing for CAE and Johne’s does the vet draw the blood from your animals? (This leaves no doubt about the reliability of results)

-How many animals have you had die and what were the causes?

- Is it possible to contact other buyers for referrals?

 Most sellers cannot guarantee an animal once it leaves the property, but most are happy to guarantee that it is healthy at the time of sale.  If you have any doubts it is wise to pass on the purchase.   


Registering Your Goat

There are three registries open to registering your Nigerian Dwarf goat in the US.  All three registries sanction shows, and all three offers a way to verify a goat’s pedigree that is registered with them.  They are the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA), the American Goat Society (AGS) and the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association (NDGA).

The American Dairy Goat Association was organized in 1904.  In addition to registration and DHIR ADGA also collects genetic information with the goal of improving the breed.   ADGA offers Linear Appraisal.  ADGA registers only does and bucks from the recognized dairy breeds in their purebred registry.  Nigerians were accepted in to the registry in January 2005.  ADGA maintains  a registry for Grades (percentage greater than 50%), Experimental (50% cross) and those accepted dairy breeds that are 7/8 or greater can be registered as Americans except for Nigerians which have no extended registries.  AGS registered goats can be shown at ADGA shows, and can be registered with ADGA on the basis of the AGS registration.  For more information please visit www.adga.org .

The American Goat Society  (AGS) was founded in 1935.  It is the oldest dairy registry and was the first to accept the Nigerian Dwarf goat as a dairy goat.  AGS shows welcome animals being shown under their ADGA registration, and ADGA registered goats can be registered with AGS on the basis of the ADGA registration.  In addition to registering your does and bucks AGS also offers DHIR.  AGS offers Classification as an appraisal method.  AGS registers all the accepted Dairy breeds plus Pygmy goats.  Only purebred animals are currently registered with no provisions for percentage animals.  AGS is currently exploring the possibility of opening up registration books for Americans and grades.  You can learn more at www.americangoatsociety.com .

The Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association (NDGA) is a registry just for the Nigerian Dwarf goat and was formed in 1996.  NDGA maintains a purebred herd book and accepts animals on the basis of AGS and ADGA registrations.  Does, bucks, and wethers can be registered and shown.  DHIR is offered.  Height standards for Nigerians are shorter than with the other two registries.   If you would like to learn more visit www.ndga.org.

Which registry to use is often determined by which has shows in your area.  You will need a herd name and in the event that you may want to utilize all three registries it is a good idea to check with each one before deciding on a herd name.  If it is a common name chances are that at least one of the registries will already have it.

Registered animals bring more on the market than non-registered animals, and animals with show wins, milk test results, and appraisal will sell for more.  All three registries have many programs that will enhance your experience as a Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goat owner.


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