May 2015 GVS Meeting Summary


MAY 2015.



The Spring meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society was held at Pontefract race course on UK Election day 7th May.  There was a varied programme put together by the society’s meetings secretary Kathy Anzuino.

“Cabrito” – the first presentation entitled “rearing and marketing meat from kids surplus to the dairy goat sector, was given by James Whetlor, owner of Cabrito the marketing outlet he has developed.  James was a chef in London for 12 years before moving to live in Devon, where he then continued working as a chef in Axminster at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage restaurant.  The restaurant mantra was to source local products, and through a series of coincidences James realised the potential for locally reared goat kid meat to add to the menu.  To his surprise, when first introduced to diners, the goat kid meat outsold locally produced beef on the first two nights.  Then in collaboration with a large local dairy goat herd, a rearing strategy was established for the first 50 males in March 2012 and “Cabrito” was born.  These males are traditionally surplus to requirements in the UK dairy sector and most are destroyed at birth.  Carcase kill out weight target was 12.5Kg (25 – 30 Kg live weight), and meat was sold initially at £8.00 – £8.50 direct to the restaurant.  Realising the potential a subsequent marketing campaign aimed at London restaurants has been successful, although to increase restaurant margins, carcase weight had to be increased to around 40Kg.  Most kids are reared indoors on the dairy farm or via contract rearers – and a specially formulated pellet ration has been developed, but to satisfy the demands for a free range product some are reared outdoors.  Currently up to 2000 are reared each year, with a variety of products marketed including sausages, burgers and mince in addition to traditional joints and “ready meals” being available.  The company has featured on TV cooking programmes and the weekend newspaper supplements.

Disease surveillance of goats in the UK – the next speaker was Amanda Carson, head of the Defra “Small Ruminant Expert Group” (SREG).  The speaker began by outlining the many problems faced by her group and others charged with the task of developing a farm animal disease surveillance strategy in the face of constant budgetary cuts.  The APHA laboratory network has been progressively cut down to only six regional laboratories, with a consequent loss of experienced veterinary staff as a result.  Following publication of the “Surveillance 2014” report, the emphasis was placed on a greater use of “third party” post mortem / surveillance providers, these included the University of Bristol and University of Surrey and other independent initiatives in England, together with Iechyd Da (Gwledig) Ltd in Wales.  Delegates were reminded that they can identify their local post mortem provider by using the APHA postcode search facility accessed via the vet gateway / scanning surveillance page.  A surveillance governance board has recently been set up giving direction to government on its surveillance strategy and chaired by Professor Dirk Pfeiffer.  There was concern expressed by delegates about the current availability of post mortem services in some parts of the country, the fragmentation of the service, and a general loss of surveillance gathering resource for the identification of new and emerging diseases, novel zoonoses and other important data sources.

Overview of Goat Production and Disease Surveillance in Poland – the society was pleased to welcome two speakers from Warsaw University in Poland, beginning with Dr Jaroslaw Kaba.  There are approximately 81000 goats in Poland, some 10000 – 15000 less than we have in the UK – and a reduction in number in Poland of around 24% from 4 years ago.  Most are in very small herds of only a handful of goats, although there are two large commercial dairies.  Health surveillance is on a fairly ad hoc basis, but is essentially focussed on Jaroslaw and his colleagues at the university, who are available for consultation by any goat owner or veterinary surgeon in Poland wishing to discuss a problem.  The main endemic disease concerns are similar to the UK and include enterotoxaemia, coccidiosis, PGE and lungworm.  Listeriosis is a particular problem, linked to widespread silage feeding.  A recent survey found that 16% of herds had Johne’s disease seropositive goats.  There is also an ongoing survey into the prevalence of CAE which appears to be a developing problem, rising from 26% of herds showing seropositive goats in 1997 to 70% in 2007 – a control programme is now in place.  Sporadic cases of Morel’s Disease with abscess formation caused by Staphylococcus aureus subsp. Anaerobius, and described at an earlier GVS meeting still occur. Poland is free of TB and Brucellosis, but does have the occasional case of rabies mainly in cattle.

CAE infection in goats and its effect on productivity (research findings) – our second guest speaker from Poland was Michał Czopowicz, who discussed some findings in relation to the escalating Polish CAE problem.  The disease was first identified in the USA in the early 1970s, it has a long incubation period, and a slowly developing insidious clinical phase – and as a result can be easily overlooked when it first gain access to a herd. Most new infection is vertically acquired from infected dams via infected colostrum, or by direct environmental exposure – e.g. via milking machines or prolonged close contact. The speaker then described approaches taken to reduce the level of infection within their national herd.

An approach to post mortem examination in the goat – the next speaker was the society’s chairman David Harwood, who had previously worked as a veterinary investigation officer with APHA and its fore-runner for 30 years.  He began by stating that a good history was a pre-requisite for commencing any post mortem examination.  Such a history should include clinical signs observed prior to death, morbidity / mortality, treatments administered etc.  He reminded the audience that due to goats being tropical / sub-tropical animals, it was not unusual to find abnormally high levels of fat within the abdominal cavity.  All post mortem examination begins on the external surface of the carcase looking at skin, feet, umbilicus in young animals and the udder in mature animals prior to opening the carcase.  The importance of developing a systematic approach was emphasised, opening the GI tract last.  A sound knowledge of anatomy is essential, as is the ability to distinguish between autolytic and pathological changes in tissue.  Blood collected during the examination is useful for serology (e.g. CAE ELISA), biochemistry including calcium, urea and BHB, but NOT for enzymes that rapidly denature after death.  Bacteriology is best achieved by searing the selected tissue surface prior to the use of a swab sent for laboratory examination in a transport medium.  Tissue samples for histopathology should include normal and abnormal tissue, and be 1.0 – 1.5 cm3 maximum, and placed in 10x volume of fixative.  The speaker then ran through a series of pathological presentations in goats, before reminding the vets in the audience that pathology is not an isolated discipline – “consider it merely as an extension of your own clinical skills and approaches.”

Practical approaches to Colostrum management in goats – was the subject covered jointly by Peter Orpin and Tracy Bainbridge of the Park Veterinary Group in Leicester.  Peter began by reminding the audience of the importance of good colostrum management, conferring protection to many diseases typically for 4-12 weeks or longer.  Surveys have confirmed that a failure of passive transfer is associated with higher than expected diseases and mortality in young stock including kids.  Far more research on colostrum management has been undertaken in cattle than goats, but much of what is known can be meaningfully applied – the use of a colostrometer or refractometer to measure colostral quality being a good example.  Blood tests are useful on neonatal kids to assess colostral uptake by use of e.g. the zinc sulphate test, or a Brix refractometer on spun serum.  Turning to kids, Tracy then suggested that a target of 10% of kid body weight in colostrum should be given in the first 24 hours with half given within first 6 hours, this equates to around 150-200mls colostrum at birth.  Aim to feed fresh colostrum within one hour or refrigerate or freeze in ice cube bags.  Care should be taken if either CAE or Johne’s disease are known problems on the unit, as both diseases can be effectively transferred to susceptible kids via infected colostrum.  Pasteurisation of colostrum has been used quite widely – research has shown that a temperature of > 56 Degrees C for 30 minutes destroys CAE virus.  In a small practice survey on a dairy goat herd, factors affecting colostral uptake were investigated including age of dam and udder shape.  Interestingly, younger goats produced better quality colostrum resulting in better overall transfer. Colostral transfer was also reduced by poor udder shape such as the low pendulous udders found in older goats.

“Mothers Matter” – the final paper was presented by Emma Baxter a researcher in animal behaviour at SRUC, who gave a fascinating overview on the effects of prenatal stress on maternal provisioning and offspring development in dairy goats.  If the start of growth is measured from the time of conception rather than from the time of birth, we find that a considerable proportion of the time taken to reach market weight is spent in the uterus!  The foetus is apparently reading signals from its mother’s environment and adjusts/reorganises development to prepare itself for its birth and subsequent environment.  Much of this work has focussed on human foetal development, and Emma and her team have been investigating whether or not these factors can be applied to goats.  The dam is the only source of all nutrients necessary for growth and development of the foetus.  The developing foetus is also exposed to other substances in the maternal blood supply, including stress hormones that can pass across the placenta and activate receptors in the foetus.  To test some of these hypotheses, an observational experiment was designed to compare groups of pregnant goats that were handled on a regular daily basis (group 1), with a further group handled in a more haphazard manner (group 2), and a group not handled at all from day 80 to day 115 (group 3).  Faecal cortisol levels were higher in group 2, but similar in groups 1 and 3.  Placental cotyledon size was increased in group 2 (most stressed group) – and this may be a useful indicator of pre-parturient foetal stress.  Some early behaviours such as suckling were also reduced in group 2.

David Harwood

May 2015.