The definition of good management is clean living conditions, adequate feed and water and a rigorous vaccination program. For sheep and goats, two annual vaccinations are essential; enterotoxemia and tetanus. These are normally contained within a single vaccine called C,D&T. All adults need to be vaccinated at least once a year. It is suggested that males and non-breeding females be vaccinated before the breeding season. Breeding does should be given their annual booster 30 days before parturition or four months after the bucks were turned out. This gives the does’ immune system time to respond to the vaccine and to peak a titre against the diseases just at the time when they are also making the colostrum essential for the survival of their kids.
Under ideal conditions, veterinarians recommend that kids and lambs be vaccinated with C, D & T Toxoid vaccine at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, if the does were boosted. If there is a history of disease on the farm, these intervals should be increased to 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16 and 20 weeks, again assuming a doe booster shot. If the doe has not been boosted, vaccinations should follow that same schedule as for infected farms but with the addition of a 5cc injection of C & D Antitoxin given at birth. Newborn kids’ immune systems are too immature to respond to a vaccine, so antitoxin is the only way to assign immunity to newborns. Newborn animals can be injected with toxoid, but it will not begin to take effect until 7 to 10 days of age. All animals, no matter what age or weight should receive 2cc of toxoid vaccine subcutaneously (under the skin). Suggested injection sites are behind the arm over the rib cage, in the scruff of the neck or behind the horns.
In reality, it is not always possible or practical to inject each kid numerous times, so at the very least, inject all kids four weeks after the last kid is born and again at weaning. Then, the annual schedule can begin. Some Australian and a few American producers have determined that is is not economical to vaccinate at all. They weigh the losses due to administration of the vaccine (anaphylaxis, injection site infection, accidents during working, and loss of immune response) against the losses due to the disease and they see no difference. Add in the cost of the vaccine and the time involved in administering it, and it is a losing proposition. There is also the possibility that vaccines developed for sheep have no effect in goats and that some vaccines are of such low quality that they do not elicit an immune response. Individual producers should consult with their veterinarian and/or the producers of the vaccine before any vaccination program is initiated so they fully understand the risks and guarantees involved.
Some vaccines for calves also contain other attenuated pathogens such as blackleg, rotavirus, etc. While these probably won’t harm goats, they should not be used in goats as the vaccine is much more expensive and goats are not particularly susceptible to these diseases. There is also a vaccine against Caseous lymphadenitis in sheep on the market. Under no circumstance should this vaccine be used in goats. It causes a dramatic loss of immune function in the does and can result in losses in the kid crop.
In Texas, rabies in goats has been identified as endemic. Since rabies is transmissible to man, it is very important to vaccinate goats against rabies if you are living in a rabies area. Again, consult your local veterinarian.