Watching for Signs of Stress in New Goats

If you've just brought home new goats, whether to enhance a green lifestyle or to keep as pets, you need to watch them for signs of stress. Even when you start with healthy goats, transporting can stress them emotionally and physically. Emotional stresses include

  • Leaving their mothers and friends

  • Losing their standing in the herd and having to establish a new position

  • Being in unfamiliar surroundings

Physical stresses can include

  • Being moved to a transport vehicle

  • Prolonged standing in a moving vehicle

  • Temperature extremes, rain, and wind

  • Lack of exercise

  • Insufficient food and water intake

  • Crowding or being moved with unfamiliar goats

  • Being bullied by more aggressive goats

At best, the stress of shipping only causes a goat to have a depressed appetite and not seem quite herself, but she snaps out of it in a few hours or days. Remember, she has to adjust to a new environment away from the security of everything she has ever known.

Blood tests show that a goat needs about three hours after being transported to stop having a physical stress response, but the move's effect on the goat's immune system can last longer.

At its worst, the stress of transport brings on what is known as shipping fever — causing pneumonia and sometimes diarrhea. Signs to look for include temperature of over 103.5º Fahrenheit, nasal discharge, coughing, rapid breathing, or rattling in the chest. Contact a veterinarian if your new goat has any of these signs.

To minimize the effects of transport stress, give the goat plenty of water (warm or hot if the weather is cold and spiked with molasses if she isn't drinking), goat Nutri-drench, and some probiotics, and watch him closely.

Watch for bullying that seems excessive or dangerous as goats redetermine their status in the herd or among the new goats; separate the bullies.

Eventually, you can expect the new goats to settle in to their surroundings and be back to their normal selves.

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