Antibiotic resistance is becoming a huge concern for livestock producers large and small. Just recently it was announced that a new strain of antibiotic resistant bacteria has been discovered in swine in China.
New goat owners and anxious goats tenders can put their herds in serious jeapordy by reaching for easily available antibiotics when they are not needed. Antibiotics seem like a handy cure-all when you think your goat is in distress and you feel you need to do something. However, in the long term you’re setting your herd up to be less resilient, and less able to be assisted by antibiotics when they actually need them.
It’s always good to be prepared – we keep a variety of antibiotics on hand along with needles and syringes. We know that things happen when a vet’s not available. We know that things happen when the stores are closed. But we also know what to look for before we decide to use antibiotics.
The first thing we do when we notice a goat isn’t feeling well is to take its temperature. We use a digital thermometer with a little water based lubricant to make it as quick and easy for everyone involved (they still run if they know it’s coming). A goat’s temperature should be between 101.5 and 103.5 F with some fluctuation to be allowed for extreme outside temperatures. A goat’s temperature can tell you a lot about what’s wrong with them and how to proceed with treatment. With the advice of our veterinarian, we hold off on using antibiotic treatment until a goat’s temperature reaches around 104.6 F. At that point, depending on other symptoms, we will treat with low level antibiotic and Banamine to reduce the fever.
When temperatures fluctuate, or pollen starts hitting the air, or any number or reasons, goat’s can get runny noses. This is something that really sends people running for the antibiotics. But, if the mucus is clear or white, there is no reason to panic. Offer your goats some evergreen branches for a vitamin c boost or an herbal immune system support if you feel like you want to give them a little something to help them out. If the mucus turns yellow or green, it’s time to consider the fact that you have a realities infection on your hands.
Coughing is another symptom that often causes people to treat their goats with antibiotics when they’re not needed. Goats cough – some more than others. They live in an environment full of dust (hay, barn, pasture, etc.) and it’s natural for them to cough on occasion. There is also a huge difference between a dry cough, and a wet, productive cough. You can buy a stethoscope pretty cheap, and it’s a good idea to invest in one and explore normal goat lung sounds, so you can better identify a respiratory issue when you need to. A persistent cough can also be a sign of lungworms, which antibiotics won’t treat. With so many potential causes, we do not treat a cough with antibiotics unless it goes hand in hand with other symptoms, (fever, discolored phlegm, etc.) or deemed a respiratory infection by a vet.
Minor abrasions, and common injuries such a scur break can be treated effectively with good cleaning and topical treatment. However, if a wound is deep enough to require stitching or shows other signs of significant damage, a course of antibiotics may be advisable to prevent infection from setting in. This is also advisable with any doe that you have had to enter to assist with kidding, as this can introduce infection into the uterus.
There are a lot of great natural supports you can offer your goat before reaching for antibiotics. Make sure you know some alternative treatments and check your symptoms carefully before determining on your own whether or not to administer antibiotics. If a vet is not readily available, it’s always advisable to have a more experienced goat “mentor” you can rely on for sound advice.