Risks of Buck Service

Episode 116
For the Love of Goats

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Whether you are interested in finding buck service or renting out your bucks, you don’t want to miss today’s episode with Dr. Jamie Stewart, Assistant Professor in Production Management Medicine at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine.

Although it is important to be sure that all goats have tested negative for CAE, CL, and Johnes, that is only the beginning. Dr. Stewart is talking about a variety of diseases that can be transmitted during breeding. Some of them are not too serious, but others can cause long-term, tragic outcomes, such as an abortion storm in a few months.

Dr. Stewart tells us how you can protect your herd from these diseases and what tests are available.

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. If you’ve got goats, you know it’s breeding season. And so I’m really excited today that we have Dr. Jamie Stewart with us, an assistant professor in production management medicine at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine to talk about sexually transmitted diseases in goats. Welcome to the show again, Dr. Stewart.

Jamie Stewart 0:41
As always, thanks for having me back.

Deborah Niemann 0:43
Thank you. So this is really interesting because I hear people talking about like renting out their buck for buck service or leasing him, or possibly they think they don’t want to buy a buck, so they want to do buck service. And they ask like, well, as long as the other herd is tested negative for all the diseases like CAE, CL, Johne’s, it’s okay, right? And the answer is, well, maybe not because those are not the only diseases that your goats can get during breeding. So that is what we’re going to talk about today. So first of all, are there any tests other than those three I just mentioned, our typical biosecurity screen, which we have a whole episode on. Are there any other tests that people can do with either does, if they own the buck, or vice versa to be sure that their goats can’t get any diseases?

Jamie Stewart 1:39
It’s not a one size fits all process. The biggest thing is having examinations done prebreeding. At least on the male side, the female, it gets a little bit trickier because they’re asymptomatic a lot of time. But certain bacterial diseases, they can harbor it and give it to the males when you bring it on. So it’s really important, especially if you’re trying to maintain a clean female herd is that you’re testing the male. So in addition to doing some of those routine biosecurity screens that you would think of like the CAE, the CL, the Johne’s. The other thing we don’t really talk about too much is culturing the semen. And one of the problems that comes from that is that you can pick up a lot of different contaminants from the environment, things that will be on that prepuce that will culture, but if there’s any pathogens that are present that are in the semen, which is where we would be most concerned about the pathogen being for spreading- or the bacteria, that’s where it would be.

Jamie Stewart 2:45
And certainly we’ve done that several times where we’ve cultured the semen on animals that are clinical. I’ve never had anybody request to do it on animals that aren’t clinical and it can be costly, especially if you have a bigger herd, but that’s the only other big thing that I would think about if you’re in the market for sharing bucks is, maybe doing something like that to make sure that- the other things that I would think of that you could pick up on culture more easily would be something like trueperella, which is a common pathogen that can cause- certainly cause diseases if it’s introduced into the vagina or going into the uterus. Other things that we would possibly culture there, it would be CL. We talk about doing the blood screen for CL all the time, but most goat owners will know it’s not 100% for picking it up. You could certainly just test it, they’ve got the antibodies to it, so not necessarily the pathogen, but, we’ve certainly found it in the semen before.

Deborah Niemann 3:48
Wow, that is really fascinating. So what are some of the diseases that goats can get during breeding?

Jamie Stewart 3:56
During breeding, the big ones to think about would be CAE especially, and that one would be more where the actual screening with the blood test would be useful for because we can’t really pick it up that easily in the reproductive tract without more expensive tests like PCRs, things like that. So that’s one of the big ones. And then CL, I think we don’t think about CL as much as a breeding pathogen as it is, but I’ve seen lots of cases where it has caused a lot of problems, at least in the male side, where it causes things like epididymitis. Where the place where the semen is stored at the bottom of the testicle becomes really swollen and enlarged. And it’s full of that purulent material that you would think of as usually in the jaw or sometimes gets into the lungs, but I’ve seen many cases where it’s set up those abscesses in the testicles and in the epididymis too.

Jamie Stewart 4:53
And certainly we would have concerns about that getting passed into the female during breeding, because like I said, we have cultured that from semen before too. And then less commonly, I would say something like campylobacter, we tend to think about that more with our late term abortions, but in the cattle side of things, it’s a pretty significant pathogen that can cause some infertility, early embryo death, things like that. So it’s definitely something to just kind of have on our radar as having that potential. And then other just opportunistic bacteria that we think of, so the same things that can cause your respiratory disease: trueperella, histophilus, a lot of that can end up going into the reproductive tract of the males, and given the right circumstances could potentially cause some inflammation in the female, which would lead to some infertility issues, at least in the short term.

Deborah Niemann 5:50
Okay. We always talk about Johne’s being fecal-oral transmission, but can that also be transmitted during breeding?

Jamie Stewart 6:00
As far as I know, it’s not transmitted- it can be transmitted fecal oral during the breeding season because you have them all housed together, but as far as I know, it’s not transferred through the actual copulation part of it. Anytime they’re all housed together, they’re exposed, and especially because when they’re mounting in close quarters, feces are everywhere, they’re all mingling. So there’s a lot of opportunity still for that contamination through that route to occur.

Deborah Niemann 6:30
Right. Okay. I know we had done a whole episode on diseases that cause abortion, and if I remember correctly, chlamydia was one of those diseases that can be transmitted during breeding and can also wind up causing like an abortion storm in your herd.

Jamie Stewart 6:51
Yeah, that’s certainly one to be concerned about, and again, it’s one that’s harder to pick up on culture, not impossible, so we do luckily have some vaccines that have limited efficacy. So, we can certainly treat for that, but it does- it can spread through the semen. So for that one- and the Campylobacter as well. Again, we think of that one more as fecal-oral, but there is evidence that it can be spread through the semen as well.

Deborah Niemann 7:20
Okay. And then a lot of these diseases do not have a cure like CAE, CL, Johne’s. We’ve talked about that on the show before. And then a lot of the other ones you’ve mentioned are very hard to treat. So what can people do to prevent these diseases other than simply not do buck service?

Jamie Stewart 7:41
I mean, if you’re going to do buck service, have a veterinarian examine these animals, especially with the bucks. We can palpate the testicles and feel if there’s any abnormalities in there. If you’re very concerned about it, we can ultrasound to look for changes that might not be evident yet. So we can look for the development of some of those abscesses. And doing a semen collection, we tend to think about that of just checking the fertility of the male, so checking the sperm motility, things like that. But we also, when we’re doing our semen evaluation, we can also look for any evidence of early signs of disease, so the presence of white blood cell in the semen can be present and that can predate any evidence of abscesses or anything that we can see or feel physically. So usually the first sign is that we can see some white blood cells in the semen, and that would be definitely a big concern if you’re using buck service and you’ve got a nice clean herd. You know, the veterinarian sees that, that might be an indication. Okay, let’s explore this further. Let’s do a culture. Let’s, you know, see if there’s anything here of concern.

Jamie Stewart 8:52
Especially, I mean, the young bucks, if they’re virgins. It might not be uncommon for them to, even without having bred anything, they can have histophilus, pasteurella, things like that. Picking it up through the environment, through respiratory secretions, and for whatever reason, when they’re in puberty, the testosterone is high and it likes to shuttle all that bacteria to their reproductive tract, and that’s what we call like the young male epididymitis where they can get a little bit of that disease, but they tend to clear it over time. So even just doing an exam before they get there, isolating them for a couple weeks, and doing another exam just to make sure that they don’t develop signs later, or if they do develop signs, you can even keep them separated and recheck them because sometimes with those young buck, young ram diseases, we tend to think of they can clear up on their own versus something like CL that’s not going to clear up on its own.

Deborah Niemann 9:51
Right. That’s really interesting. I had never thought about the possibility that a buck who if he was even born on your farm, and has been there forever, has never bred a doe before, that even he could have something that he could give to a doe during breeding.

Jamie Stewart 10:06
And I think that the risk of those being very deleterious to the female is low. Because again, those are what we would consider opportunistic pathogens, so if you’ve got a good nutrition program, they’ve got good immune systems, most likely that’s not going to cause a problem, but again, it’s not something that you want to risk if they’ve never been exposed to it.

Deborah Niemann 10:28
Okay, that’s really fascinating. So my rule has always been that I will not breed a doe unless she was born on my farm, and she goes to another farm that has no other sheep or goats on it, and has never been bred by another buck. So basically, they’ve had no contact whatsoever with other bucks. Does that sound safe- to do that?

Jamie Stewart 10:55
That sounds completely safe. Yeah. So, you know, you’re just trying to- the biggest thing is remembering that even if you bring in a male that’s clean is that females can harbor some of these pathogens, things like Chlamydia, they can just hold it in there- a lot of them will clear it, but you might get one that just harbors it in her vagina for a while, and then, you know, you get a nice clean male that comes in breeds her, and then he can pass it to the rest of the herd. Take it if he’s going to another farm, then he can pass it there. So always remember that that can always be a risk. So if you’re trying to keep your herd clean as possible, or at least if you’ve got several females out of your favorites that you want to not risk it, you can reserve them for doing AI on, and then maybe the rest of them can be used for buck service.

Deborah Niemann 11:48
Okay. So, how does a doe get Chlamydia other than through breeding?

Jamie Stewart 11:53
It can be picked up through respiratory secretions also. So mingling with other- because they can get some, they can get- it’s a cause of pink eye also. So they do get some upper respiratory badness with it, and they can secrete it through those, you know, coughing, things like that, and pass it through the oral nasal route that way.

Deborah Niemann 12:14
Oh, that is really interesting. So I’ve always felt like a lightweight, because I basically called an end to our goat showing when our goats all came home with pink eye one time, and some people were like, oh, that’s just cosmetic, it’s brief, but like is that the kind of pink eye you’re talking about? Like that can turn into Chlamydia?

Jamie Stewart 12:34
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s a lot of the- and again, it’s something that they- again, with a good nutrition program, and if you see it a lot and you do vaccines for it, you can prevent it from becoming a big problem. Or if they’ve been exposed to it a lot, if they’re show goats and they’ve been around the block a few times, a lot of them will have good immunity to it and might not necessarily have issues with abortions down the line.

Deborah Niemann 13:00
Wow, that is really interesting. Okay, so I’m really glad you mentioned AI, and we’ve got a whole episode that we did on that last year with you. So if people want to know more about AI, we’ve got that. Are there any diseases that goats- that does can get from semen?

Jamie Stewart 13:15
It’s very rare because most of them are in kind of the other secretions. And it’s going to depend also where you source your semen from and making sure that the animals that they’ve been collected from. So the things I would be most concerned about would be CAE definitely because that can be produced, actually that can be harbored in the accessory sex glands and can be in the semen. And it’s not going to get covered by the antibiotics that are in our semen extenders since it is a virus. So checking and making sure that where the semen was collected from, that the animal was CAE negative.

Jamie Stewart 13:57
So that always can actually be a concern because we do do a lot of custom collection where males aren’t necessarily checked for that. So always asking that and if they’re not, then you have to kind of evaluate, your risks for that. Or do you want to find, you know, do you want to go to a company that does actual quarantining of the males and making sure that they’re testing negative for a variety of the diseases. So CAE would be the big one I think of. Most of the- and then CL potentially I would say is a lower risk. We don’t always see it in the semen and when we do it usually causes poor semen quality, so the semen usually is not even freezable when it gets to that point. And then Chlamydia, usually that’s going to get covered by some of the antibiotics that we put in there, but again, it’s good due diligence to check to see how the bucks are maintained from those semen collection facilities, but I would say the risk for that’s pretty minor.

Deborah Niemann 14:58
Okay. Wow, this has been really interesting. Is there anything else that people need to be aware of in terms of using an outside buck or renting out their buck?

Jamie Stewart 15:09
Just always asking for documentation to protect yourself. We as veterinarians, we try to have good relationships with our clients and when it comes down to when we’re doing our semen collections, I always think about it, especially if it’s a male that’s going to be sold, even if it’s just rented out for breeding. I’m working for the person who’s paying for his use also in addition to the person who’s actually paying me. So I’m going to document everything on that paperwork that, you know, we saw some white blood cells on there, maybe the right epididymis was a little bit enlarged and would recommend rechecking. So always ask for that paperwork because somebody that’s doing a good job at checking them is going to record everything or everything was completely normal and you can feel a little bit safe knowing that there were no abnormalities on that examination. Whereas, I give the paperwork to the owner and he’s the one renting it out, he can choose to share it with you. So if you ask for that, then you can at least see if there were any other notes to protect yourself.

Deborah Niemann 16:14
Okay. Thank you so much for joining us today. This has been really fascinating.

Jamie Stewart 16:19
You’re very welcome.

Deborah Niemann 16:21
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 for theloveofgoats.com and you can follow us on Facebook at facebook.com slash Love Goats podcast. See you again next time. Bye for now.

Risks of Buck Service

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