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How to Deal with CAEV in Goats

Goats, like humans, are subject to viruses of different sorts. One of the worst viruses that can afflict your goats is Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV). CAEV is a member of the same virus family as HIV. It was named for two of the most common forms of the disease — arthritis, which usually is in the form of swollen knees, and encephalitis, which shows up as neurological problems. CAEV also can cause chronic mastitis, pneumonia, and weight loss. In most cases, goats have no symptoms at all but are still carriers.

CAEV is most commonly spread through body fluids — in the case of goats, colostrum, milk, and blood. Goats that live with an infected goat can also get it, and in some cases CAEV is believed to be passed in utero. CAEV is currently incurable, but it is not transmissible to humans.

To prevent CAEV in your herd, know who you're getting your goats from and insist that any new goats or their parents have tested negative for the virus. Have your goats tested the first year after you get them, and if they ever leave your farm, or new goats or sheep come in, continue to test them annually. Breed them only to CAEV-negative bucks.

If you have a goat with CAEV, you must keep it isolated from other goats that are CAEV-negative or plan to have all of your goats eventually become infected. If possible, do not breed an infected goat to an uninfected buck. (The risk of a negative buck becoming infected by a positive doe is unlikely, but some risk exists.)

If you have a CAEV-positive doe that kids, take these CAEV prevention steps to decrease the kids' risk of contracting the virus:

  1. 1. As soon as the kid is born, put it in a separate box and remove it from its mother.

  2. Wash the kid with mild soapy water, rinse, and dry it.

    Dry the kid with a blow dryer or towel, making sure it doesn't get chilled.

  3. Put the kid in an area separate from its mother or other goats that are CAEV-positive.

    You can put multiple kids in the same area as long as all of them are kept from CAEV-positive goats.

  4. Feed the kid within the first half-hour, or as soon as possible.

    If you have colostrum that has been heat-treated or is from a doe that is known to be CAEV-negative, or colostrum from a cow known to be negative for Johne's disease, give the kid an ounce or two at a temperature of about 104 degrees Fahrenheit in a bottle. If you don't have safe colostrum, milk some out of the mother, heat-treat it, and give to the kid as soon as possible.

    To heat-treat colostrum, heat it to between 135 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit in a double boiler and keep at that temperature for one hour. Make sure that the temperature does not go higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit or the colostrum will thicken too much. A good method is to pour the heated colostrum into a hot metal thermos, put the thermos into a water bath and monitor the temperature of the water.

    After the first feeding, feed the kids only pasteurized whole goat or cow milk, kid or sheep milk replacer, or milk from a doe that is known to be CAEV-negative.

  5. Test the kids for CAEV beginning at six months of age and separate any that test positive from the CAEV-negative goats.

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