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"Recognizing a Sick Goat (Part 1)"

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Recognizing a Sick Goat (Part 1)

By: Gary Pfalzbot
About the Author

If goats could speak, they could tell us volumes, or so the saying goes. Well actually, goats can speak, but it is up to us to learn their language. If you are new to raising goats, or considering raising goats, please tell yourself that, and youíll come out far ahead with your goats health in the long run. Learning to listen to and observe your goats is perhaps just as important as any other part of their daily care: feeding, watering, shelter, grooming, etc.

Photo Gary Pfalzbot, GoatWorld, ©2013

Goats, when content and in good health, are usually quiet creatures of habit, full of energy, playful, curious, rambunctious as well as mischievous. Itís not often that you will hear a goat bleating (crying) for no apparent reason, and if you do, it most often signals that something is wrong. There are exceptions to the rule - some goats are prone to making various moaning and groaning noises which are not considered bleating, and under most circumstances, signify that they are somewhat content. Getting used to the moans and groans can be difficult but the actual bleat itself is more indicative of the goats overall well-being. Certain breeds such as the Nubian are considered noisy breeds.

Goats kept in a well defined area will be prone to either laying around quietly, eating in one spot, or browsing, each activity producing its own unique bleats, moans and groans. During quiet times you can frequently find a goat completely sprawled out in what I find to be a completely relaxed moment for the goat. During these moments, the goat is unlikely to make any noise at all.

From my own experience, there are four reasons why a goat will make an excessive amount of noise: hunger, thirst, breeding season (or pregnancy) and illness. And if you listen closely, youíll soon be able to distinguish each "bleat" for what it really means.

In the case of thirst or hunger, a goat will often be persistent with their bleating. As more time lapses and their hunger grows, the bleating will become more and more pronounced. The bleat of a hungry goat will either drive you to feeding them immediately (best choice) or out of earshot from their cries (not a good choice). Bleating because a goat is thirsty is a little less pronounced unless it is a very hot day or the goat has been without water for an extended period of time.

During breeding season or pregnancy (see below), goats have a very unique set of sounds and series of behaviors that are unlike any of their normal behaviors. A goat that is sick, usually will separate itself from the rest of the herd. A goat that is in rut is usually seeking out other goats.

The sound of an ill (or soon to be ill) goat is much different than that of a hungry or thirsty goat, though it may start out with a similar persistence. The bleat has more of a stressful note in its quality and most often has a much different tone. When compared to its "normal" bleat, this does not sound like the same goats voice at all. Consider how your own voice sounds when you are sad, depressed or not feeling well. Not your usual, robust and hearty voice is it? The same with your goat.

You will notice that up to this point, I have only discussed the aspect of a goats bleat. This as I mentioned earlier, is only part of recognizing a sick goat. The other part consists of how the goat acts and looks physically. Letís try to tie the two together now so it begins to paint a clear picture.

Your average "healthy" goat will appear energetic; curious or wary of its surroundings when standing, feet planted squarely and well balanced, or, busily chewing its cud when laying down for a rest. By all standards, the tail should be held high above or over the back and the coat of hair rich and shiny. The eyes should be bright and alert. And unless hungry or thirsty, or in rut, the goat should be quiet (very little if any at all in the way of bleating).

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About the author: Gary Pfalzbot is a Service Connected Disabled Veteran and the web master of GoatWorld as well as some other web sites. He has raised goats over the years, been involved with 4-H (as a young boy) and currently resides in Colorado where he and his wife Pam raise a few breeds of goats and other animals, and primarily author the GoatWorld web site to continue to inform, educate, and promote the industry.


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