Dairy Goats 

Rags on the Fence

A Tragic Day

Posted on July 22, 2015 at 12:50 PM


On July 2nd, at 3 am, I heard a goat cry. I ran to the back porch with a bright light, trying to pinpoint which pen I would be running for- Bruno was standing in the middle of Moxie's pen, and even at the end of a flashlight beam I could see she was obviously bloated. I ran back into the house to wake Rebah to help me and to grab all of my doctoring supplies. When Rebah reached the pen, less than 3 minutes later, Bruno was already gone.


That was the start of three hours of hell.


Bruno was not the only baby that was in distress- we started triaging like crazy. Therabloat, oil, oral & subQ PenG in case of entero, kaopectate, even charcoal paste. A 330 am phone call to a good goat friend for more ideas. Nothing was working- one by one they died. Bruno was followed by Inda and then Mote (Dust's daughters). We got a trocar into Fusion but the foam was so thick it didn't relieve any pressure at all and she went next. Rebah worked extra hard on Pub, as she was fighting in true La Mancha spirit, but she finally succumbed, Then our long awaited, gentle Essence. Almost at the end I remembered the two buck kids up above- I threw treatment at them but first Noil died and finally Sarge right around dawn. The La Manchas died silent and stoic, the Nubians cried- both breed true to the end. It seemed like there were bodies every where. We were crying, hysterical, covered in medicine and the smell of death.

There were ten lambar babies in Moxie's pen. Six of them died. Princess is the only baby that showed symptoms and lived, and her symptoms were very mild. Ladyhawke never showed any sign of illness. There are two dam raised kids and two weaned kids in that pen, none of those four ever showed a single symptom. The babies that bloated and died all drank from the same cooled pan of pasteurized goat milk from the same lambar buckets. The other two pens of bucket babies were fed from a different pan of milk- none ever showed a symptom.

We couldn't afford a necropsy, but Rebah was right when she sobbed, "We have to know, Mom, we have to know what happened!" So Rebah drove Mote's body to the lab at UC Davis that morning to turn it in for necropsy. I posted about the tragedy on Facebook in hopes that even though I was exposing our herd to whispered ridicule, we might help anyone that encountered a similar problem. (Trust me, breeders lose animals all the time and never breath a word in order to protect their reputations.)

Some of you have been asking about the necropsy results- I was hoping to hear more back from the pathologist before posting, but it seems they have not come up with anymore ideas. The short story:

They don't know.

Eight lovely kids dead but we do not know why. Yes, I guess we have to accept that sometimes we just do not know, but my heart is still broken, so it is still hard.

When we spoke to the pathologist and were able to describe to him the behavior of the kids and how they died, he verbally said he feels the damage to the lungs was from her suffocating to death, not from pneumonia. He said pneumonia didn't kill her. No pneumonia that we have ever heard of causes screaming like we dealt with that night or kills 8 animals almost simultaneously or causes the huge amounts of foam/froth that poured from them when they died. If it was yeast, as we suspect, they are very difficult to isolate and test for, and all of the foam could have dissipated from her stomach by the time we got her to the lab. The small amount of foam/froth in her trachea was not sampled. Here are details:


Gross Observations

"A female kid goat is submitted for necropsy in good body condition with adequate amounts of reserve fat and in good postmortem preservation. The intestines, abomasum, and rumen are markedly distended by abundant amounts of gas. No frothy fluid is observed within the rumen or abomasum. The lungs are diffusely mottled dark red and wet. The trachea contains a moderate amount of tan to white froth. The cecum contains occasional nematodes consistent with whipworms that are embedded within the mucosa. No other significant gross findings are observed."


No evidence of frothy bloat was observed despite the marked distension of the abdominal cavity by gas. The significance of this gas distension is unknown. The lesions in the lungs are suggestive of a pneumonia and may have contributed to or caused the death of this animal. Ancillary tests including histopathologic examination are currently pending.


There was no evidence of gastrointestinal disease. The lesions in the lungs are consistent with an acute mild to moderate pneumonia. No bacteria were isolated from the lungs or liver but a CAE IHC is currently pending to potentially detect an underlying viral etiology. The heavy metal panel is still pending. The marked bloating noted grossly could potentially be a postmortem change.



The CAE IHC was negative. A definitive cause of the pneumonia could not be determined. The pneumonia was the only lesion that was observed in the goat both grossly and histologically. Few parasites were observed grossly and no parasite eggs were identified in the fecal. A definitive cause of death could not be determined but the pneumonia was likely a contributor to disease. All diagnostic tests have been completed.



Lungs: Multifocally alveoli contain moderate amounts of fibrin and proteinaceous fluid. There are occasional alveoli that contain small to moderate numbers of neutrophils and macrophages admixed with necrotic debris. Heart, tongue, skeletal muscle, liver, spleen, rumen, reticulum, abomasum, small intestine, large intestine: No significant histopathologic lesions observed.

Addendum 07/07/2015:

Brain: No significant histopathologic lesions observed.


So the bad news is- we have no idea why the kids died, but some good did come from the experience. Except for a very few whipworms, our parasite prevention program was successful. They found no cocci or scarring at all. That is great news! In addition, her mineral levels in the liver were in the normal range- maybe not quite as high as I like, but not too low, so our mineral program is on track. In addition, but not least, she was very healthy and in good flesh. Basically she was a very healthy dead kid.


This was our first 'real' necropsy. In the past we have had field necropsies done by our vet to determine cause of death, but this is the first time we have had a full necropsy done. It wasn't the experience I had hoped for, but only because we still don't know WHY. The pathologist and staff at the UC Davis CAHFS was wonderful and has been helpful and supportive. The information we gained on our kid management was excellent- we seem to have that dialed in well. I would still recommend to anyone that they have a necropsy done if they need answers. I especially recommend running a mineral panel on the liver of at least one animal a year if possible, to be sure you are on top of mineral supplementation. 

In the end- no news, good news, and hearts that are still broken. We may never listen to that song without sobbing again...

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Reply Jessica
2:40 PM on July 30, 2015 
I am so sorry for your loss. That is just way too many kids to lose in one day. Stay Strong, and I hope that this never happens to you again
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