David Harwood’s summary of the May GVS meeting

The spring meeting of the society took place at Leicester racecourse on 15th May, beginning with a short AGM at which David Harwood took over as the society’s chairman.  He began by thanking his predecessor Tony Andrews who had held the position for over 15 years but no-one was quite sure of the exact period!  In recognition of his invaluable input to the society he was made an honorary life member of the society, and presented with a bronze figure of a goat.

Diagnostic testing in goats and sheep – the first paper of the day was presented by Phil Scott of the University of Edinburgh.  During a fully illustrated talk utilising both still photographs and video footage, the speaker ran through the clinical signs and diagnostic imaging findings of some common conditions in small ruminants.  The technique of ultrasound examination is particularly useful for identifying lung lesions such as abscesses, in which lesion size and position can be assessed, alongside changes evident to monitor any therapeutic regime adopted.  In the speakers view, this technique is the only really effective way of assessing clinical respiratory pathology, also having a part to play in screening apparently healthy sheep or goats for signs of respiratory disease such as ovine pulmonary adenocarcinoma.  Access to the chest for the procedure is through the chest wall in the relatively hair / fleece free area behind the elbow joint.  Although auscultation can be a useful way of assessing heart sounds for possible pathology, ultrasound again has the edge, demonstrated by particularly clear images of established endocardial deposits on heart valves.

Another clinical syndrome in which the procedure can be of value is urolithiasis, in which not only urolith position can be assessed, but also the degree of bladder enlargement or leakage, and the degree of resulting kidney damage such as hydronephrosis that may have occurred.  The final use described was for examination of the male genitalia in which the technique is able to differentiate between epididymitis and orchitis, and can give some indication of severity and extent of resulting pathology.

Feeding the pet goat – the second speaker of the day was GVS committee member and experienced goat keeper Sue Smith from Somerset.  Questions related to feeding regimes for goats and in particular pet goats are commonly directed to the society.  The speaker suggested that if we could define a pet goat as one that neither milks or breeds, then one of the first assumptions we can make, is that the majority are probably too fat!   To get to a maintenance weight, a pet goat should be fed ad lib good quality hay and nothing more.  This is hard for your average pet goat keeper, who tends to make up for lack of concentrate by substituting it with titbits such as digestive biscuits. As goats have evolved as browsing animals, these owners would be far better picking suitable branches for their goats to eat, and cheap pasta shells from the supermarket are a good “pocket treat.”  In a balanced diet, approximately 80gms of coarse mix twice daily or a similar amount of sugar beet would be more than sufficient for a maintenance ration with good quality hay.  Condition scoring of goats can be undertaken with practice, making two assessments – one over the lumbar area similar to the procedure in cattle and sheep, and a second assessment over the brisket area looking for the presence / absence of a subcutaneous fat pad.  Pet goat owners should aim for a condition score of around 3.0.  There was some discussion as to what the influence on nutrition is by grazing, although difficult to evaluate, the overall benefit of being outdoors should not be underestimated.

Moving on to discuss hobby / show goats, the speaker stated that these would normally be animals that are milking and breeding, and often being milk recorded and taken to shows.  Unfortunately for the novice, there are many different methods of feeding these goats, the majority of which work for each owner, their goats and their holding type!  Concentrate examples include specialist goat course mixes and goat pellets, other owners feed cattle pellets.  Forage sources include good meadow hay, dried alfalfa or dried grass.  The speaker then outlined her own feeding system as an example.  The maximum amount of concentrate she would feed is 1kg per day, split into two feeds; more prolific milkers have some soaked sugar beet in the evening as a third feed.  This ration with ad lib hay has enabled her goats to average 1500-1800 kg per year, whilst maintaining a body good condition score.

Surgery and anaesthesia in sheep and goats – Phil Scott in his second paper, began by suggesting to the audience that they should consider the use of more traditional corticosteroids (such as dexamethasone) instead of non-steroidal products, describing the response he has had when treating suppurative polyarthritis in sheep caused by, giving a high dose intravenously, followed up by the simple use of penicillin.  This is also an approach he uses successfully when treating encephalitic listeriosis cases, again with dexamethasone and an appropriate antibiotic.

Moving on to spinal anaesthesia which he feels is probably underutilised, he began by discussing the low extradural injection of xylazine and lignocaine, providing good anaesthesia for obstetrical procedures such as lambing or the replacement of a prolapsed vagina.  High extradural injections can be beneficial for procedures such as vasectomy or the repair of inguinal hernias.

For goat disbudding, he follows the recommendations in the GVS DVD “Disbudding of goat kids” available from the GVS secretary, and also advises undergraduates to follow the advice given.

TB in goats – following the recent incidents of confirmed bovine TB in two commercial goat herds, there has been intense interest both within the goat sector and beyond, summarised in a letter to the veterinary record [Harwood (2014), 174, p456].  A number of delegates from outside the GVS attended including representatives from the NFU and AHWBE.  The first speaker in the session was Alastair George, from the Defra TB policy team.  The speaker began by giving some facts concerning the current TB situation in cattle, including the new “edge strategy” in which there are three areas referred to as high risk, low risk and the edge area in between.  Goats are usually referred to as “spillover hosts” from other local sources, resulting in infection most often with the local geographical spoligotype.  Defra observations however have shown that animal species may not always fall clearly into particular categories and the relative importance of a host species in the transmission of M bovis may change over time and from region to region.  It appears that once the organism gains entry to a group of goats, that resulting spread of infection can be very rapid, with inhalation being the most common route of infection.

Clinical signs include loss of condition, inappetance, drop in milk production and intermittent coughing.  At post mortem examination, lesions are fund predominantly in the respiratory tract and associated lymph nodes, but lesions have also been identified in the intestinal tract and associated lymph nodes and in the udder).

Lung lesions are white or cream containing semi-liquid white or cream pus, many lymph node lesions are caseous with mineralisation.

Suspect lesions of TB found at slaughter, or during post mortem examination together with the laboratory isolation of M. bovis in goats are notifiable under the TB (England) Order 2007 (as amended).  Defra currently has limited statutory powers to control TB in goats, however, AHVLA may issue movement restrictions where a reasonable suspicion of TB infection exists. Legal powers to compulsorily test and slaughter individual suspect animals (reactors, contacts or suspect clinical cases) – cannot be exercised without compensation, and this is currently not available.  AHVLA will seek the owners’ cooperation when TB is identified and restrictions are served.  If the owner agrees, then Defra will pay for skin testing, reactor removal/slaughter and the post mortem & culture work done by AHVLA (but with no available compensation).  Private slaughter without compensation is a further option.  Restrictions on the rest of the herd remain in force until any reactors die or are privately slaughtered and all other goats in the herd have undergone two clear SICCT (single intradermal comparative cervical test) tests at 60-day intervals or are similarly slaughtered.  As there is an undoubted public health risk, AHVLA will notify Food Authorities if reactors are identified in dairy goat herds and inform Health Authorities (if M. bovis is isolated in any goat).

There is a forthcoming consultation on TB in non-bovine farmed and companion animals (including goats), and this will provide support for the TB Strategy for England – the GVS will be responding to this consultation, and would urge anyone working within the  goat sector to do likewise.

The second speaker in this session was Alastair Hayton of the Synergy practice in Somerset, giving an update on alternative testing procedures for TB following his presentation to GVS in 2013 (reported in GVS Journal 2014, vol 30 p26).  The test discussed was the “Enferplex TB test,” reportedly with a 100% specificity and hence no false positives.  The speaker outlined some work he had been undertaking trialling the test in camelids (similarly with a current TB problem), in which annual whole herd or proportionate bleeding in larger herds, was to be undertaken, final details were not yet available.  The test had also been used on blood samples taken from one of the current TB commercial goat herd breakdowns, with many more positive goats being identified than by using the SICCT alone.  The test also seemed to be unaffected by any concurrent Johne’s disease vaccination in the herd.

Ectoparasites and their control – the first speaker after lunch was Chris Lewis, a sheep veterinary society former president and sheep farmer, who gave a historical perspective on ectoparasites and their control, focussing on sheep scab.  Infection was most likely introduced to the UK from Normandy at the time that Henry VIII was carrying out his dissolution of the monasteries around 1536.  In 1870, farmers were obliged to report scab to the relevant authorities, and by 1878, fines were imposed on those who failed to report such infection.  The first effective dip “Coopers Dip” was launched in the 1890s, and contained the somewhat lethal cocktail of arsenic, nicotine and sulphur.  Organochorine dips were developed and launched in 1946, and scab was eradicated from England and Scotland by 1948 and from Wales by 1951, and the country remained free of infection for the next 20 years, only to be re-introduced from Ireland in 1973.  Since then many products have been withdrawn on safety grounds and others have been developed, yet there has been very little overall reduction in scab prevalence.

CAE in goats – the final speaker of the day was Lynn Batty of SRUC (formerly SAC consulting), who initially ran through the aetiology, and presenting clinical signs of CAE and modes of transmission.  The most common presenting sign is arthritis affecting adult goats, and most commonly in the carpal joint.  Mastitis is a particularly important problem in commercial dairy herd as the resulting pathology leads to the udder becoming firm with a loss of glandular tissue.  Lung pathology is a more unusual presentation in the UK, and the encephalitis described in young kids has never been confirmed in the UK. The disease is an insidious one, and clinical signs may well be overlooked until around 50% of the herd is infected.  Testing can be undertaken by the use of an ELISA blood test (with a test sensitivity of around 99.4% and test specificity of 99.3%).  There is currently no vaccine and control is based on sound biosecurity to keep it out, once confirmed various test and cull options are available depending on numbers infected.

Top tips –   during the final session facilitated by programme secretary Kat Bazeley, audience members were asked to give their top tips on housing, these included:

  • Keep pet goats on a hard standing and not wet muddy conditions through the winter to reduce the prevalence of white line disease.
  • Ensure you have two entrances into any goat shelters to get round the problem of the “bully goat” guarding the single entrance.
  • Insulate the roof, keeps the building warm in winter and cool in summer.

David Harwood

May 2014.

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