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Administering Health Care Products to Goats

By: Jackie Nix, Agricultural Extension Agent

  • About the Author
  • Health care is the second greatest cost of production in raising goats, so it makes sense that you should maximize the effectiveness of the medications that you do give by storing and administering them properly. The first and most important thing that you should do when you purchase a health care product is to read the product label. This will provide you with all of the information that you need to know in order to properly store and administer the product. Here are some tips for using animal health care products:

    Check the Label for Storage Instructions
    - Find out if the product requires special storage (refrigeration or stored away from direct sunlight). You'd be surprised at the amount of money spent on perfectly good drugs only to have them sit on the truck dashboard and be ruined. If you need to use drugs that require refrigeration out in the field, transport them in a cooler with ice. (A cooler also works when you have products that must be stored away from direct sunlight.)

    Check the Expiration Date
    - Never use a product past its expiration date.

    Check the Label for Age Requirements
    - For instance the minimum age for the vaccine for enterotoxemia is ten weeks for kids born to unvaccinated does and one week for kids born to unvaccinated does.

    Buy Only the Quantities Needed for Immediate Use
    - Buying in bulk can lead to waste if the product cannot be used by its expiration date. Remember that a vaccine cannot be saved once its container is opened.

    Do Not Combine Drugs
    - Mixing two different products will not produce one super drug. In some cases, mixing products can actually destroy the effectiveness of both products! If a combination that you want is not available commercially, give separate injections of individual products.

    Use Transfer Needles
    - Get in the habit of always using a transfer needle when drawing product from a bottle. Not only is this more sanitary, it is often easier in the long run. To use a transfer needle, place a sterile needle in the bottle. Screw the syringe that you wish to use onto the needle. Extract the amount of product that you require. Unscrew the syringe from the needle without removing it from the bottle. Then screw on the needle to be used on the goat. Ideally use a new needle for each goat (diseases such as CAE can be transferred from one goat to another through dirty needles).

    Thoroughly Mix the Product
    - Make sure that you thoroughly mix all health care products prior to use (according to the label directions). It may also be necessary to periodically stop and shake the bottle again to prevent settling.

    Choose the Correct Needle Size
    - Correct needle size and length are both important to ensure that a drug is administered correctly and with minimal tissue damage to the goat. Intramuscular (IM) injections (injected deep into a major muscle mass) should be given with an 18 or 20-gauge needle, 1 to 1 1/2 " long. Subcutaneous (SQ) injections (injected under the skin) should be given with an 18 or 20 gauge needle, 1/2 to 3/4" long.

    Expel Air from Syringes Prior to Injection
    - Fill the syringe and then force out any air by pressing the liquid to the needle's tip (a small amount of liquid should come out). Trapped air in the syringe can result in incorrect dosages or leakage from the injection site.

    Choose the Best Route of Administration
    - The label will indicate the acceptable routes of administration. It might only specify one route or it might indicate several options. When given an option, always choose subcutaneous (SQ) over intramuscular (IM). Subcutaneous injections result in less tissue damage than intramuscular injections.

    Choose the Best Injection Site
    - The best injection location is one where the product will generate the most benefit without risk of damage to expensive cuts of meat or injury to the animal. Convenience is often the last factor considered in choosing an injection site. Preferred sites for intramuscular injections are the neck, triceps and tailhead, with the neck being most preferable. Preferred sites for subcutaneous injections are the neck, behind the shoulder, over the ribs and at the tailhead. Once again, the neck is the most preferred site. Never give injections in the loin or hind leg areas. And it goes without saying that you should take care to avoid pricking yourself with the needle or injecting the product into yourself. This is especially important if using a vaccine against orf.

    Clean the Injection Site
    - Make sure that the injection site is clean and (especially) free of mud and manure. Swab the injection site with alcohol if possible. Avoid injecting into damp or wet skin if possible also.

    Record the date and identification of the animals receiving health care products
    - This will allow you to accurately determine that withdrawal periods are adhered to and will help in your record keeping to track costs as well as to identify chronically sick animals.

    In summary, health care products account for a sizable portion of the goat production budget, so it makes sense that one should store and administer them correctly so that they will achieve maximum efficacy. Above all, read the product label for direction in storage and administration. Choose an appropriate injection site and properly inject the product as directed. Be sure to record the date, product(s) used and animals receiving treatment in your production records.

    Adapted from:
    Florida Cow-Calf Management. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Publication SP197. 1996

    Additional Sources:
    Goat Health Handbook. T.R. Thedford. Winrock International. 1983

    The Goatkeeper’s Veterinary Book, 3rd Edition. P. Dunn. Farming Press. 1996

    About the author: Jackie Nix is an Agricultural Extension Agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. You may e-mail questions to her at Jackie_Nix@ncsu.edu. This and other goat related information can be found at her website at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/lenoir/staff/jnix/Ag/Goat/

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