Miscarriages in Goats Caused by Infections

Episode 96
For the Love of Goats

Miscarriages in Goats Caused by Infections featured image

One of the most common questions I get during kidding season is, “why was this kid born dead?” Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question because there are dozens of possibilities, starting with a long list of possible infections that can cause abortions, stillbirths, and neonatal death.

As I was planning this episode with Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Production Management Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, I thought we’d discuss all the possible infectious causes of abortion, but when I opened just one veterinary textbook and looked at the possibilities, I realized there was no way we could cover all of them in a single episode.

Dr. Stewart and I decided to cover the most common causes that she sees in practice, and I added the diseases that I get the most questions about.

In this episode, we are talking about the causes, symptoms, and diagnoses of chlamydia, q-fever, campylobacter, toxoplasmosis, Cache Valley virus, the goat version of hairy shaker disease in lambs, blue tongue, brucellosis, mycoplasma, e. coli, and strep. We also cover transmission, prevention, and treatment.

While some of these diseases will affect only a single goat, others can cause an abortion storm, affecting potentially every pregnant doe in your herd. This is why it is so important to get a proper diagnosis if you have more than one doe giving birth prematurely or to stillborn kids.

If you’re interested to know about the vaccines for goats, check out this episode.

Other episodes with Dr. Jamie Stewart

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Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to be a really interesting episode. And, I was inspired to do this because I get a frustratingly large number of messages and emails from people who talk about having a kid born nonresponsive, and they do mouth to mouth trying to breathe life into this kid that appears to be dead. And, that always freaks me out. Because, if a kid is born dead, there is a chance that it has a disease that humans could get. So, you could be giving yourself a really terrible zoonotic disease; it can make you quite ill. I don’t know why your goat aborted. So, to know that, you would have to take it in for a necropsy, and they would need to do some pathology work on it.

Deborah Niemann 1:05
And, that is what we’re going to talk about today. There’s a lot of reasons why goats can abort, and what we’re going to talk about today are the causes that are infectious. So, what kind of diseases can cause a goats pregnancy to end prematurely—or on time, but with dead kids. We’re joined today again by Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Production Management Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Welcome back to the show, Dr. Stewart.

Jamie Stewart 1:33
Thanks for having me again.

Deborah Niemann 1:35
I’m really excited to talk about this. It’s funny, as I was telling you before we started, I pulled out Mary Smith’s brand new book, Goat Medicine, and thought, “I’m gonna make a list of all the diseases that we can talk about.” And, I was so overwhelmed by the length of the list. Like, it is just crazy long, how many diseases can cause abortions in goats. So I said, “All right, let’s shorten this list.” Because, we could be here all afternoon discussing all the diseases. So, what we’re going to talk about today are just the ones that are the most common, that you’re most likely to see, but it is not by any means a definitive list. And so, if you really want to know, you know, why your goat aborted, like I said a minute ago, you know, you’re gonna have to get pathology work done.

Deborah Niemann 2:20
So, the first one that you mentioned before we got started was chlamydia. So, let’s just go ahead and start with that one. What does that look like? And why does that happen?

Jamie Stewart 2:32
So, chlamydia. It’s a bacteria; it’s not the same one that you would think about with humans, but it is a bacteria in that sense. And basically, it causes what we think of as a placentitis. And, what that means is that the placenta gets infected. Anytime you hear a name with “-itis,” it means it’s infected. So, those little buttons that you see, you know, when the placenta comes out, that’s where all the attachments to the uterus and where all the blood flow and exchange to the fetuses. And so, what the chlamydia does—and really importantly, when I’m teaching my students this, I don’t even tell them to go through and memorize every single one of these pathogens and every single thing about it. Because, even as veterinarians, we’ll notice trends, and that’s what I tried to implement for them to remember, is that we’re going to see trends. So, this—and there’s several other diseases that are going to cause this placentitis, versus some of the other diseases we’ll talk about later that seem to affect the fetus itself. So, if you see that placentitis, if you notice that, you know, the placentomes, or those buttons on the placenta, look really yellow and not normal? That is a telltale sign that there is definitely an infectious process going on.

Jamie Stewart 3:45
And, I cannot express this enough: I know Deborah already mentioned it, but zoonotic diseases… I think the top 10 slides in my PowerPoint all have “zoonotic” bolded and underlined for diseases, because there are so many of them that are zoonotic. I can’t say that enough. And, that’s always a test question for the students, too, because it’s so important to remember. But yeah. So, this is one of them that’s zoonotic. And so, it’s up to about 60% abortion rates, if your herd has never seen it. Now, if it’s become endemic in your herd, you’ll see a little bit less than that. And, there is a vaccine for it. So definitely, diagnostics are really important. Especially, like I said, if you are noticing what we call an “abortion storm,” where you’re having a lot of females that are affected, it’s really important to get your veterinarian out. We can’t really stop, you know, the process of the abortions that are going on, but we might be able to slow it down.

Jamie Stewart 4:39
Some of you guys might remember, you used to be able to go to the feed store and get the Aureomycin crumbles, or antibiotics that you can put in your feed to treat your entire flock, and you can’t do that without a veterinarian anymore. And so, that’s one of those things, you know, for something like this, that the antibiotics can actually help, but you do need to have a relationship with a vet to… Even the injectables anymore, that’s coming down the pipeline, where you’re not going to be able to get the penicillin and the tetracycline at the feed store anymore. But, those are really important ways to kind of head this off at the beginning and prevent further abortions.

Deborah Niemann 5:14
Is chlamydia spread between does in your herd by the buck breeding different does? How does it get into your herd?

Jamie Stewart 5:22
So, it can. So, bucks can get things like epididymitis, and the bucks and the females can have some respiratory disease with it. And so, that can be a source of shedding it early on. Usually, when you’re in the midst of an abortion storm, the main source of it spreading between the females is the fact that, when she aborts, all the females are going to go over, and they’re going to start nosing at the aborted tissue, because that’s what ruminants do. That’s what your goats do. They’re very curious. So, they’ll go over, and then that’s going to be a main starting factor for all of them to get it. So, if it starts with just one, you know, you’re gonna start seeing it spread through if you don’t get that aborted fetus out of there soon.

Deborah Niemann 6:02
Oh, okay. That’s very interesting. We have kidding pens now, so 95% of the time, that’s not possible. And, I hadn’t really thought about that as being a potential benefit to having kidding pens. So, that’s good to know.

Jamie Stewart 6:15

Deborah Niemann 6:16
Is there any way that you can prevent chlamydia from coming into your herd from your does getting it?

Jamie Stewart 6:22
The main thing would be testing as you’re coming in. And, that can be quite pricey. Otherwise, it’s just, you know, getting animals from trusted sources. So, we always talk about biosecurity. You know, when your animals come in, isolate them for a couple of weeks. And again, something like this will cause a little bit of what you’ll see, like the eye discharge in pneumonia, and things like that. So, if you see your females developing some of those clinical signs during that time period, you might want to consider testing them if you’re worried about bringing this into your herd.

Jamie Stewart 6:53
The other option, I did mention there is a vaccine. And, the vaccine is especially important if you already think that it’s in your herd, but you want to prevent abortions from happening. The important thing about vaccines is, they don’t prevent the females from getting the infection, but it’s going to prevent them from aborting or having clinical signs from the infection. So, it’s an important consideration to make, too. Because, you know, if you’re moving that female to another farm, she could still have that pathogen.

Deborah Niemann 7:21
Okay. So, is there anything else that people should know about chlamydia?

Jamie Stewart 7:27
The other thing about it is, the female herself that aborted—if that is what you have found it to be—that she can continue to share that organism for about three weeks after the abortion. So, it is really important, in addition to removing the aborted fetuses, to isolate that female also.

Deborah Niemann 7:44
Oh, so another benefit of having kidding pens—

Jamie Stewart 7:47

Deborah Niemann 7:47
—and keeping them separated. All right. Good to know.

Deborah Niemann 7:51
The other one—because we did a whole episode here on Q fever probably a year or so ago, and coxiellosis, which is the disease in the goats that causes Q fever in humans. That episode just freaked me out so much, knowing how zoonotic it is, and how easy it is to transmit, that that’s the one that I always think of now, and I always send people a link to that podcast episode. And like, this is just one of the diseases you could get from your goat, if it aborted because it has this disease. So, we do have a whole episode on that. But, go ahead and give us a good overview of what Q fever is in humans, and then the disease in goats as well.

Jamie Stewart 8:32
Okay. So, in humans, it’s kind of explained in the name. You know, you just get this really nasty fever. And, the worst part about it is—you know, and I don’t want to talk ill about the human health care system—but the human doctors are not well-versed in zoonotic diseases. So, if you’ve been exposed to it, and you know you’ve been exposed to it, you know, it’s something that you need to make sure that you tell your doctor that is on your mind about, because it usually is not on their radar. So, it needs to be on yours. Even if you don’t know that’s what you have in the herd, but you know, if you were handling aborted tissues, and then a few days later, you develop this really bad fever, and you just get really sick from it and need to go see a doctor, it’s important for you to know that. And, I think that’s really important.

Jamie Stewart 9:14
The other thing—and I didn’t mention this with the chlamydia. But, the other big thing, you know, if you’re not going to do it for yourself—especially if you’re pregnant. A lot of these can cause abortions in humans, too. Like, when I was pregnant, you know, about a year and a half to two years ago, any small ruminant dystocia, I had my intern come out with me and she did all the handling, because you just never know what you’re going to come in contact with. And, there’s so many that are zoonotic.

Jamie Stewart 9:40
So, on the goat side of this, it’s another one that causes the placentitis. So, like I just mentioned with the chlamydia, if you see anything weird looking with that placenta, I would strongly recommend that you’re wearing gloves, and certainly recommend that you call your vet. Or, you know, if you’re lucky enough to have a lab close by to you that you can just go ahead and send it to, I would definitely do that, because you know, if it’s the beginning of something, you definitely want to know about it. And it’s another one, again, shed in the placenta. It’s shed in those fluids. This one’s also shedding the milk, too. So, you know, even if you do have babies that survive, or even if you have babies that die and the female’s still milking, you definitely don’t want to graft babies on to her. And if they’re alive, you definitely want to take them off of her and start bottle feeding them. And then, these animals, they will develop lifelong immunity to it, but they can also carry it and shed it. So, we usually recommend not keeping these animals around, especially when you need to try to get it out of your herd.

Deborah Niemann 10:37
Okay, that is really good to know. One of the things we talked about in the other episode was also that it could be spread through droplets. So, especially if you’re pregnant, if you have no choice, there’s nobody else around and you have to help a goat that’s giving birth, that in addition to wearing gloves, it’s a good idea to wear a mask.

Jamie Stewart 10:54
And eye protection, too. We tend to not think about that. That is a route, too. But eye protection is helpful, too.

Deborah Niemann 10:57
Okay. That is really good to know. And absolutely, again, do not do mouth to mouth if a kid is born dead. Or, even if you think it’s dead, or it looks dead. Just to talk about this a little more: Whenever a kid is born, like, my first instinct is, I’m drying them really quickly. We’re in Illinois; it’s usually very cold here. So, I’m drying them really fast. And, if in the process of drying and wiping off the nose, it seems like they’re really not responding, at that point then, I put my fingers over the chest. And, if I don’t feel the heartbeat, like, “Okay, that’s it. This kid is obviously not alive.” And that’s the end of it. Is that pretty much what you would say, like, is the best practice?

Jamie Stewart 11:42
Yes. And, if you’re trying to stimulate them to breathe, important things to know: Definitely don’t do mouth to mouth, because of all the things we talked about, but there’s actually an acupuncture point right in the middle of their lip. And, if you have, like, a needle or something nearby, that’s one of the spots where we’ll stick a little needle in to try to stimulate them to breathe. So, that’s something else that you can try, you know, when you’re trying to do everything. It’s quick to do; you just stick the little needle in that little area right in-between the lip. You can do that. And then, the rubbing is really important, because you’re actually going to rub the nerve that stimulates breathing. And so, sometimes we’ll do, like, the gentle pat to try to help stimulate that. All those are much more effective than trying to do mouth to mouth. And yes, if the heart rate is gone, then usually we call it, because usually it’s not going to come back at that point.

Deborah Niemann 12:28
Right. Okay. The next disease that you had mentioned that can cause abortions in goats—I know this can also cause severe illness in humans who drink raw milk that’s infected with this—and that’s Campylobacter. Can you talk a little bit about what that looks like?

Jamie Stewart 12:43
Yeah. So, Campylobacter, depending on there’s some different species and subspecies of it, but it can be shed anywhere from the aborted fetuses and the placenta. But, it can also be spread in the feces, so it can cause some GI distress in your animals, as well as causing abortions. And, this is actually one of them that does not cause the placentitis. So, you won’t really see any of those weird lesions on the placenta when it comes out. It causes fetal death. And so, with that, you can have anything from kind of an early abortion, and you might have stillbirths, and you might even have some weak lambs. So, you kind of get the little gamut of things.

Jamie Stewart 13:24
And, this is another one that there is a vaccine available for it. And, the same thing as the chlamydia, it’s not going to prevent them from getting infected. But, you know, if it’s within your herd already, and you know, you don’t want to go through a whole bunch of females—and this one’s a little bit more manageable to keep in your herd. You just, obviously, with the zoonotic, you always have to make sure you’re keeping everything at bay. And, this is another one that will respond to antibiotics, too, if you’re in the midst of an abortion storm.

Deborah Niemann 13:52
Okay. Yeah, that’s good to know. And that’s something else, too. I don’t know that we’ve really talked about that whole lot yet, but before we chatted, I said, “You never know when you’re at the beginning of your abortion storm.” Like, that’s something that you can figure out, you know, after the fact. Like, you don’t know, is this one kid who just was born dead? Is it a fluke? Is it the only one you’re gonna see? Or, is it the first of 20 that you’re going to see this season? So, that’s why you always need to be cognizant of the fact that, like, this could be the first of many, and it could be infectious, and you hope it’s not, but you need to act with that in mind, and not do something that’s going to put your own health at risk.

Deborah Niemann 14:34
Is there anything else people need to know about Campylobacter?

Jamie Stewart 14:37
I think that’s one of the main points about it. Luckily, we don’t see this one quite as often as the chlamydia, but definitely important to keep in your mind.

Deborah Niemann 14:45
So, the next one we have on the list here is toxoplasmosis, which I got quite the education on that long time ago. I think was, like, the 2011 ADGA conference, because there was a woman who did a session there on an abortion storm that she had because of toxoplasmosis. So, anybody here who has ever been pregnant, you know, or had a spouse who was pregnant, like, you probably know that they tell you, “Don’t clean the litter box,” and you know, things like that, because cats can carry toxoplasmosis. So, can you tell us a little bit more about how to protect your goats from that? Because, cats love to use goat stalls as litter boxes.

Jamie Stewart 15:30
Yeah. You know, and that’s a hard one. Because, you know, the biggest recommendation that you will see anywhere is, “Don’t have barn cats.” But, how practical is that for most people, you know? Especially, it’s a little bit of a challenge when you’re trying to keep mice populations at bay that also carry some other diseases. So I think, you know, the important thing for that is mostly keeping the cats out of any kind of feed stuff, because that’s how the dams get infected, is they ingest the -osis that the cats defecate out. And so, if you can at least keep them out of anything that they’re going to be eating—which again, I know, because hay is nice and soft to go lay on. So, I know that can be challenging. But, you know, keeping litter boxes and things around that might encourage them to go somewhere else can be helpful.

Jamie Stewart 16:17
And, this is another one that will have the placental lesions. So, it’s something to kind of keep in mind, that they call them “peperoni” lesions on this one, because they are kind of like speckly; they have little calcium deposits on it. So, if you see something like that, you might be a little bit more thoughtful for toxoplasma. Especially, if you do have cats around. You have to kind of weigh the benefits and outcomes and pretty much just preventions. And, they say kittens and pregnant queens should be kept out of the pasture at least, too, and out of the feed stuff. So, spayed queens can actually be useful, because the spayed ones are less likely to pick it up and harbor it. And so, if you actually replace any kind of intact or pregnant queen with a spayed one, because they’re not going to shed it as much, that will actually take out the population. So, just your routine, you know, doing your spaying and neutering of cats, will help with some of that.

Deborah Niemann 17:14
One of the things that I’ve done after hearing about this woman’s horrible, horrible experience… One of the things I’ve always been very cognizant of is that I basically only bring in new kittens—because I always get kittens. I bring in new kittens in the summer after everyone has kidded. And then, I keep them in the barn office for a couple of months, using a litter box, so that if they had it when they arrived, all their poop is in the litter box in the office. And, I always get males and get them neutered, because neutering is cheaper than spaying. So basically—because I feel like we have such a problem with mice. So, we always need to have a couple cats around to help with that, because they just fill up the traps faster than we can set them if we just tried to rely on traps. So, is that a pretty good strategy? Is there anything else people could do?

Jamie Stewart 18:07
I think that’s a really good strategy. Just, you know, giving them a more—and keeping the litter box clean. Because, you know, if they have a dirty litter box, they’re more likely going to want to go into somewhere else to use it. So, I think that’s an excellent strategy, and getting them used to it right off the bat, too. So, you know, cats are habits of— creatures of habits. So, when they get used to it, that’s what they like to do.

Deborah Niemann 18:30
Okay. So, is there anything else people need to know about toxoplasmosis?

Jamie Stewart 18:34
I think that was pretty good.

Deborah Niemann 18:35
Okay. The next one I want to talk about is another one that we did an episode on this. And, this was with someone who had the experience this past kidding season, or last year. She had a lot of problems with Cache Valley Virus going through her herd. So, she talked about that from the goat owner’s perspective. So, can you give us a little more information about that disease from the perspective of a vet?

Jamie Stewart 19:03
Yeah. So, the Cache Valley Virus, luckily, it’s another one that we, around the areas I’ve lived—so Virginia and Illinois—have not seen very often, but I have tested for it a couple times. Because, what you usually see with it is weird congenital things; the lambs or the kids will come out malformed. So, their joints might be kind of bent up. They might have some like large heads. They might look like these little, like, what we call “water babies,” where they’re kind of full of fluid. It’s called “anasarca.” And so, if you see anything weird like that, you should definitely have Cache Valley Virus in your head.

Jamie Stewart 19:41
And this one’s actually it’s not a direct contact spread. So, it’s spread by vectors, so mosquitoes and flies, and so this is one where insect control becomes really important. And you’ll see this one start to pop up more… I don’t know if people are doing fall or spring lambing herds, but you know, most people will unfortunately see it with their spring lambing—or lambing and kidding—which is when most people are going to be doing that, because it’s spread by all those vectors that are coming out then. And obviously, this is one, it causes fetal death, and that’s why they abort. But the good thing is, if you see kind of a malformation in the fetus, it’s more likely than not that it’s going to be just a random one off. So, as opposed to some of those other diseases, where you’re going to see issues with the placenta that’s going to point you more towards something infectious, this one’s not zoonotic. And, it’s actually one that’s less likely to cause an abortion storm, because it’s relying on that vector to spread it, and not spreading directly from one another. So it’s important, I think, to at least get tested for it if you’re suspecting it, but you know, not one that is usually devastating. But, you know, especially if the insect populations are not controlled, you’ll see a little bit more issues with kind of some storms with that.

Deborah Niemann 20:58
And for this one, the mosquito has to bite the goat in the second month of pregnancy for it to cause disease.

Jamie Stewart 21:07
That sounds correct. I can’t remember the exact timeframe what it goes on, because it does take some time for it to replicate within the mosquito.

Deborah Niemann 21:15
Okay. So, if you are getting your goats pregnant later in the fall, when it’s cold, and there’s fewer mosquitoes, then that’s going to reduce your risk of the disease. But other than that, unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do to try and prevent that if you have a big mosquito problem, and if this disease is in your area.

Deborah Niemann 21:35
The next one that you had mentioned was one that I had not heard of. You said that in lambs, it’s referred to as “hairy shaker” disease. What does this look like in goats?

Jamie Stewart 21:45
In goats, you’ll tend to just see… If anybody also out there also has cattle, it looks like what we see with BVD in cattle. And, that’s a very common disease in cattle. But, you’ll see similar things to what you’ll see with the Cache Valley Virus. So, you’ll see the joints that are contracted down. You might see their heads enlarged—so the hydrocephalus is what we call that. And, they might actually be born a little bit normal, or they might look weak and thrifty and even kind of have some defects, where they’re walking to the side because of how it affects their brain development. Those are the kinds of things—and yeah, we talked about it’s called “hairy shaker” disease in lambs, because they tend to be really hairy. But, I don’t feel like we see—goats are already really hairy. So, I think we don’t really see as much of that part as the really bad parts of it, so the effects on the brain especially.

Deborah Niemann 22:36
Okay. And then, the next one is one that, I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody that had this disease. But, I know I’ve heard of it. I know there are some states, they wanted statements on health certificates saying that goats are free of bluetongue before they can go into that state. So, tell us a little bit more about bluetongue and how it can cause goats to abort.

Jamie Stewart 23:00
Yeah. So, bluetongue is another one that’s spread by a vector. So, this is usually one of the… It’s called Culicoides. It’s a gnat that will spread it around. And so, mostly, it’s going to cause the abortion because of the way that affects the female. The female becomes really sick and febrile, and that’s what actually causes her to abort. So, the fetus actually dies inside of her, and then she aborts it. And, even if the lamb—or the kid—doesn’t die from it, you know, it can be born. It can actually be viremic when it’s born, so it could still be spreading it when it’s born, even if the kid’s alive. Luckily, yeah, we don’t see it much in many of our species, so. But, important to kind of keep in mind because yeah, you will hear people ask about it.

Deborah Niemann 23:47
Yeah. The only time I honestly ever really heard about it is if I’ve sold goats to some states that require that statement on the health certificate that you have to say that “They’re not showing any symptoms of bluetongue,” or something like that. They don’t require a test. But, they do want a statement saying that it doesn’t look like this animal has bluetongue.

Deborah Niemann 24:06
The next one is one that probably, again, we’re not going to see it a whole lot. Most states are certified brucellosis-free. But again, brucellosis is one of those things that’s zoonotic. So, it’s really important to know about. Can you talk about that one a little more?

Jamie Stewart 24:22
Yeah. So luckily, in the U.S., two of the three pathogens we’d be worried about—so Brucella melitensis and Brucella abortus—most states are free from those, and those are the ones we’d be most worried about in goats. The other one that we would just want to keep in mind would be Brucella ovis, which, in the sheep world, causes an epididymitis. On the goat side, it is still considered zoonotic. So technically, it’s going to be more prevalent in the sheep. So, if you have sheep and goats on your farm, it’s something to keep in mind that they could pass to your goats. And, it’s a similar thing to some of our other bacteria ones, where it does cause is a really bad placentitis and causes them to abort. But, it’s also reportable, too. So luckily, we don’t—because of that—we don’t see it, because we’ve done a really good job at eradicating these bad ones and making sure that we keep it out of our domestic populations.

Deborah Niemann 25:17
Okay. The next disease that I wanted to talk about is one that I know somebody was having problems with. And, not just with aborting, but also with death among newborns. Like, you think they’re fine, and then they’re dead. And, that is mycoplasma. So, can you talk a little bit about how that presents?

Jamie Stewart 25:37
Yeah. We tend to think about mycoplasma when we think about more respiratory disease, and we think about mastitis. Those are the two big things, but it’s one that can definitely cause abortions, too. And across species, too. So, not even just in goats, but in cattle we will see it also. And it just… It’s another one that’s more so the effect on the female. The female becomes really sick from it. And then, it can spread to the fetus, and it can cause death of the fetus in utero, then leading to her to abort everything. And then, the other thing, if she has really bad respiratory disease—again, not only just from the pathogen, but just from her being febrile, or her, you know, not being able to breathe effectively—it’s going to cause her body to want to abort, you know, the fetus, because that’s just an extra added stress on her body. And, her body’s working so hard to try to oxygenate itself that it doesn’t need to oxygenate something else. So. And then, obviously, you know, with the neonates, we worry about, you know, not only the respiratory disease, but the effects that it’s going to have on the females bag. Because, you know, we tend to think of it with the hard bag, and it’s going to affect her milk production, too.

Deborah Niemann 26:44
Most of what we’ve talked about so far are things that could cause multiple abortions. But, before we got started, you also said that there are infections that can cause just a single goat to abort—which, I never would have even thought about this. You said just common things like E. coli and strep can cause a goat to abort. Can you talk about that a little bit, and are those things also that would be zoonotic?

Jamie Stewart 27:12
So, these we consider opportunistic bacteria. And most of the time, you know, we think of E, coli as zoonotic, but again, we are exposed to it all the time. So, our immune system deals with it. And so, these are not what we would consider pathogenic forms of some of these different types of pathogens. They’re ones that we’re exposed to every day. The difference is, why we only end up seeing this kind of in the one off doe, is that something happens in that individual doe that makes her predisposed to it. So, you know, and mycoplasma can be one of those things. If her immune system is working too hard, if she’s picked up some other kind of respiratory virus, things like that, that are gonna knock her immune system down, so then those pathogens that are normally not harmful are going to have basically a route to get to where the baby is.

Jamie Stewart 28:02
And, one of the other things that we tend to not think about is, if we over-grain our females, that actually can cause them to get a little bit of what we call “subclinical” acidosis, where they’re not actually clinical, but it actually opens up a pathway for some of those bugs that are in the rumen to get into the bloodstream and get to the placenta. And so, most of the time, when we see this kind of one-off, opportunistic infection, it’s maybe the female found, like, a little bag of grain over in the corner that didn’t get poured out. And, she just overindulged a little bit, and it caused her, you know, rumen, to get a little bit unhappy, and it just kind of opened up a little portal in the rumen, and then bacteria can get in the bloodstream. So, those are a few different ways that those opportunistic bacteria can take hold.

Deborah Niemann 28:47
Okay. And, I just want to take this opportunity to, like, put a little plug for, like, the importance of always wearing gloves when you are doing a goat birth. Which, I always kind of thought like, “Well, okay, if you’re pregnant, absolutely. Always wear a mask. Think about eye protection, too.” But even, if you’re not, like, I always kind of thought like, “Oh, I’m not pregnant. I’m not. There’s no possibility I could be pregnant. So, it’s not a big deal as long as I don’t have a cut on my hand or something.” And then one day, a few years ago, I’m like, in the middle of, like, drying off kids, and I realized, “Oh, my gosh, I have a cut on my hand.” And, I was freaking out a little bit and thinking, “I really, really need to get in the habit of wearing gloves.” And you know, it’s really hard to start a new habit. So, especially if you’re new to goats, like, get into that habit of, like, wearing gloves all the time and having them available. Now I have, like, in all my coat pockets—like, all the coats that I could possibly be wearing out to the barn—there are disposable gloves in them so that I always have them with me. Do you have any other tips for people on protecting yourself?

Deborah Niemann 28:48
You know, I think we covered most of them. In addition to the gloves, the sleeves are really helpful, too. The ones that come up. you know, the full length of your arm. Because you do sometimes get arm-deep in there when you’re trying to help with a kidding. And again, if you’ve got any little, even like micro-cuts, you know, even if you don’t see them, they could still be there. And keep your mouth closed. If you don’t have a mask on, keep your mouth closed.

Deborah Niemann 30:17
That is such good advice. Like, when you’re cleaning out water buckets that had poop in them, keep your mouth closed, too.

Deborah Niemann 30:23
So, I know a few years back, my husband got a really, really severe infection when he was butchering chickens one time. And, for whatever bizarre reason, this one chicken had a, like, razor- sharp bone on the inside of its body cavity. So, when he went to pull out the intestines and stuff, he sliced his finger open really badly. And he just, you know, rinsed it with water, kept working, and thought nothing of it, until a few days later when his arm had this red streak going all the way up to his shoulder. And, he was in pain, and he had to be on systemic antibiotics. And, I shared that online. I was surprised by how many people were thinking that, like, “Oh, he shouldn’t have gotten sick because he’s accustomed to the germs on your farm,” and things like that. And you know, I know someone who got Campylobacter from drinking raw milk on their farm after, like, 17 or 18 years of drinking raw milk on their farm. So, there’s no such thing as, like, getting immune to the diseases or germs that your animals could be carrying.

Jamie Stewart 31:30
Yeah. And I think we spent a lot of time freaking everybody out enough to wear their gloves and sleeves and everything. But also, I mean, don’t freak out. If you do get a splash on you, you know, be mindful, maybe take your temperature every day or so. If you get something on your hand, you know, wash your hands with soap and water. And wash your hands with soap and water when you’re done. And then, the other big thing is, wash your phone when you’re done. Because, we have a lot of students that will take out their phone to take pictures, things like that, and then at the end of the day, you know, they have it sitting on the table next to them eating lunch, and I’m like, “Did you wash your phone?” So, I always go over my phone with some Lysol wipes. I try to do that at the end of every day when I’ve been working with animals for any reason, but especially, you know, if you take your phone out to take a picture of the weird kid that was just born or the cute kid that was just born.

Deborah Niemann 32:19
Yeah, definitely. I’m so glad you mentioned that. I remember… I think I mentioned on Facebook one time that fingerprint ID doesn’t work on your phone if your fingers have birth goo on them.

Jamie Stewart 32:32
It does not.

Deborah Niemann 32:34
So yeah, my phone has been looking pretty bad sometimes after, because we all want to take pictures of the cute newborns and stuff, too. So, our phones tend to get handled a lot.

Deborah Niemann 32:46
Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I think this has provided a lot of really useful information for people. And hopefully, they will be a little safer, and also know that if they really want to know why they’re goat aborted, or why kid was born dead, that the only way to really know that is to send it in for a necropsy. Oh—and I remember, again at that 2011 ADGA conference, there was a pathologist there who also said he always tells his vet students “Placenta, placenta, placenta,” over and over again. So, if you have a kid that’s born dead, save the placenta, too, send that in, because sometimes that’s where the answer is.

Jamie Stewart 33:30
Especially all those diseases that I said that have placentitis. Most of those, you’re only going to get those pathogens from the placenta. They don’t even always make it all the way to the fetus.

Deborah Niemann 33:41
Awesome. This is so good. Is there anything else that people need to know about goats aborting and stillborns and stuff?

Jamie Stewart 33:48
Oh, I think we got everything. That was pretty thorough.

Deborah Niemann 33:51
Cool. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This has been wonderful.

Jamie Stewart 33:56
Oh, thank you.

Deborah Niemann 33:58
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

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