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Goat on the menu

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01 August 2015, at 12:00am

RICHARD GARD reports from the latest meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society, at which the topics included euthanasia, disease surveillance and stress

AFTER decades of wastage of male kids, the latest meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society was given details of an initiative to put goat on the menu.

The key is to provide heavier, tastier carcases that allow chefs to produce attractive meals without aftertaste. A six-month production target of 20kg deadweight outperforms the imported lighter 10-12kg carcase, which is very limiting for a chef.

Opening the AGM, president David Harwood identified a very active past year for the society and a growth in both members and requests for information. When a client of a veterinary practice contacts the society every effort is made to contact the practice. The website (goatvetsoc. co.uk) has updated information with the recent inclusion of TB in goats including lessons learned from the few UK outbreaks.

The society has commissioned specialised goat disbudding irons, which are available to veterinary surgeons. Contact with the members is increasingly by electronic means, apart from the Goat Veterinary Society Journal. The society also has a Twitter account (@GoatVet!).

Addressing kid euthanasia

Jamers Whetlor (Cabrito Goat Meat) pointed out that in its marketing the company is not afraid to address the issue of goat kid euthanasia.

The fact that no Billys are euthanased on participating farms is a bonus for the promotion of the meat, which is seen as an ethical product and customers “feel good about buying the meat”.

There was a risk in opening up the subject of euthanasia to the media but the results have been positive. James is a chef and has developed his contacts with “high end restaurants” in London to demonstrate the benefits of British kid goat meat from the dairy industry.

The farmer receives £7 per kg with the kids contract-reared in groups of 10. Four farms have been involved in developing the production and it is hoped to expand the availability of the product to supermarkets. A range of dishes is being tested including sausages, meat balls and marinated products incorporating regional recipes.

Current production is approximately 2,000 animals and goat will always be a minority specialist item. The folk who have taken to eating goat in restaurants have made enquiries about purchasing kid meat and the Cabrito website (CabritoGoatMeat.co.uk) is linked on restaurant websites.

Amanda Carson (APHA) discussed disease surveillance of goats in the UK. In 2014 there were 863 clinical submissions to APHA with 276 imports checked for diseases. The small ruminant quarterly report is available on the .gov website.

There are 89,000 goats recorded on the goat density map on 7,000 holdings. Radical changes are taking place in the availability of post-mortem facilities with the APHA Vet Gateway map showing the new locations via a postcode finder.

The aim is to provide 80% of facilities within one hour of a farm. However, the budget has been reduced by half and there is uncertainty about future surveillance.

The locations depended on a provider responding to a tender and it was pointed out that the areas that yielded the first reports of Schmallenberg and Bluetongue now have poor surveillance coverage. APHA is aware that midges carrying the Bluetongue virus have overwintered in Bulgaria and Croatia.

Surveillance

The APHA Surveillance Intelligence Unit was set up in September 2014 and the first meeting of the Surveillance Governance Board has recently taken place. The budget priorities are new diseases, new presentations and pathogen variants, overseen by species expert groups. The board has been tasked with making the best use of government funding for effective surveillance.

Dr Jaroslaw Kuba (Warsaw University) provided an overview of goat production and disease surveillance in Poland. The number of goats being kept is falling each year with 82,000 goats on 19,000 farms. Only 6% of herds have 10 or more animals. There are now 20 breeding pedigree herds with 30 breeding bucks. Some 2,000 goats are slaughtered for meat each year.

There is a high incidence of parasitic diseases. The poor keeping conditions on farms are linked to a major problem with enzootic pneumonia. Listeriosis shows a 100% seroprevalence in goats and is of clinical importance. Bluetongue has not been confirmed and Schmallenberg has a seroprevalence of 2-16% with few clinical cases.

Pulpy kidney disease (clostridial enterotoxaemia) is commonplace. Johne’s Disease incidence is low at 2% of herds. There is no vaccine in Poland for ovine enzootic abortion (Chlamydia) with a recognised 4% incidence. CLA (caseous lymphadenitis) infection (corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis) is identified in 70% of herds.

It was left to the next speaker to introduce himself so that there was no error in pronunciation. Michael Czopowicz (Warsaw University) outlined the research findings from a study of CAE (caprine arthritis encephalitis) infection in goats and its effect on productivity. Over 10 years the incidence of CAE increased from 20% to 70% of herds with 53% of herds showing seroprevalence and 36% of goats.

The disease spreads from goat to goat with no clinical symptoms seen for three to five years. Only one case of neurological symptoms has been recorded. Breeding goats show a constant presence of the disease. Infected kids often do not seroconvert.

Bovine colostrum (SRLV-free) is fed to restrict transfer of the virus. Trials have shown that the disease has no effect on milk yield and cell count but reduces milk composition (protein, lactose and fat).

The yield of cheese is reduced in SRLV-positive herds. Some infected animals never show clinical symptoms. Infected herds often have a higher proportion of older animals with consequently higher herd milk yields.

Post-mortem presentations

David Harwood detailed his approach to post-mortem in the goat and discussed some common pathological presentations. He emphasised that an examination of the pathology is an extension of clinical skills and that case history and background are needed before attempting a post-mortem examination.

He explained the need for good descriptive terminology within the submission details and terms like “manky” are not helpful. Histology on the gut is “a waste of time” if the animal has been dead over three or four hours. The brain is best kept intact and put in a bucket with fixative.

Overall a systemic approach is required, starting with the skin, feet, eyes and udder and opening of the GI tract left to last. Photographs of lesions are really useful to the pathologist, with clinical observations recorded when first seen, not back at the surgery.

Peter Orpin and Tracy Bainbridge (Park Veterinary Group) discussed a practical approach to colostrum management in goats. Goat kids have no antibodies at birth and the target is to provide colostrum within the next six hours. There is no difference in IgG absorption between 30 and 90 minutes after birth.

Using a Brix refractometer, the total solids content of the colostrum is assessed with the specific gravity indicating the protein level. A loading of 150-200ml of quality colostrum is required within 90 minutes of birth. First time kidders have been found to have good quality colostrum with a decline in older goats.

Udder conformation may limit the ability of the kid to suckle. Score 3 udders represent a high risk of poor uptake and colostrum supplementation is required. Stored colostrum requires a high level of hygiene management. A best practice colostrum guide for goat keepers is proposed.

Emma Baxter (SRUC) described the effects of pre-natal stress on mothers and kids. The developing foetus is exposed to substances in the maternal blood supply. Stress hormones cross the placenta.

Studies with groups of goats in middle pregnancy have shown that an aversive management yields different growth and play characteristics in kids, compared to gentle or minimal handling. The placental morphology is also changed with fewer and larger cotyledons.

Maternal behaviour with a gentle regime is recorded, with increased 44 LIVESTOCK VETERINARY PRACTICE AUGUST 2015 grooming and nosing of kids, rapid clearing of airways, quicker suckling, better thermoregulation and improved mother-offspring bonding.

Higher goat densities lead to more aggression between mothers and a raised fear reaction in the kids. The conclusion is that the pre-natal period may be an untapped source of farm improvement.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of top tips and disasters. One of the points highlighted was the need for better access to information for vets in order for the best advice to be given to goat keepers. It is recognised that some vets have little experience with goats.

  • The next meeting of the Goat Veterinary Society is at Taunton racecourse on Wednesday 21st October.