Goat stillbirths and abortions often result from infection, so you must get to the root problem if your herd experiences an abortion storm. That occurs when several does abort their fetuses about the same time. If your does abort, contact your veterinarian immediately. Since goats often give birth to multiple kids, it's possible that one might be stillborn.
Abortion and Stillbirths
In livestock, abortion is usually synonymous with miscarriage. Although a veterinarian can induce an abortion for the health of a pregnant female goat or another medical reason, that is an exception. A situation known as early embryonic death occurs in the beginning stages of pregnancy, when the doe reabsorbs the fetus. That often occurs before the owner is aware of the pregnancy, with odd heat cycles one of the few clues. Should a fetus die midway or later in the pregnancy cycle and not abort, it could mummify. This mummified fetus might arrive along with viable kids during delivery, or it can remain in the uterus. In the latter case, the "pregnant" doe continues to appear as if she is expecting and doesn't come back into heat. Your vet must treat her to get rid of the mummified fetus. A stillborn is a fully developed kid who dies close to the delivery date or during delivery.
Some of the infectious agents causing caprine abortion are zoonotic, meaning people can catch them from the animal. Pregnant women handling goats should not touch aborted or stillborn fetuses. Once any does abort, expectant women should find someone else to handle goat care duties until the reason for the fetal loss is identified. Those dealing with the fetuses and does should wear disposable gloves, and disinfect shoes and other clothing after leaving the goat pen. It's possible that an abortion storm in a goat herd could be declared a public health threat, depending on the cause.
Identifying the Cause
While many goats abort because of infection, that's not the only cause. Eating certain plants, including locoweed, can cause fetal loss. A doe whose diet is deficient in certain vitamins or minerals can also abort. Lack of sufficient vitamin A, copper, magnesium or selenium can cause abortion. Chlamydophilosis is the most common infection causing caprine abortion, but other culprits include leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, listeriosis, coxiella burnetii, brucellosis and the caprine herpesvirus 1. Once your vet identifies the cause of the abortion, she can start appropriate treatment.
Separate does who have aborted from the rest of the herd, and keep all goats away from the areas where the does aborted. Remove any bedding in those areas and clean any stalls or sheds with bleach or another strong, veterinarian-recommended disinfectant. Do not let any goats into the disinfected area until you receive notification from your vet regarding the culprit, infectious or otherwise, behind the abortions.
Goat Abortion Therapy and Prevention
If your vet determines that the abortions or stillbirths occurred because of an infectious agent, she might prescribe antibiotics as preventive therapy for any pregnant does remaining in the herd. Sound management practices can help avoid future abortion storms. When purchasing goats, make sure you receive health and vaccination records. Quarantine any new goats for several weeks before allowing them into your herd. Consult your veterinarian regarding a deworming protocol for your herd. Some dewormers, given at a certain stage of pregnancy, can cause abortion.
- Photo Credit chaiwat2/iStock/Getty Images