Most goats have two coats, a course hairy outer/guard coat and a soft undercoat (cashmere). The angora goat on the other hand has a single coat (mohair), this is coarser than cashmere but produced in larger quantities.
Cashmere is harvested by either shearing or combing whereas mohair is harvested by shearing (twice a year, spring and autumn) (7). There are around 50 cashmere producers in the UK with a herd of around 2,500 goats. Britain currently processes 60% of the world's mohair, almost all of which is imported. UK mohair production is currently around 25 tonnes per annum from a flock of between 4,000 - 6,000 animals. Shearing takes place twice a year in spring and autumn. In commercial flocks breeding stock would normally be culled after 6 years (7). Goats are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature, therefore, unless they are housed, they should only be shorn in suitable weather conditions. Combing is a preferred method in adverse weather conditions (1).
There is a large number of diseases affecting goats; these include Scrapie, Johnes’ Disease, Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV), foot and mouth and mastitis in milking goats (1).
This is a fatal brain disease of sheep, and occasionally goats. The infection is thought to be caused by a protein called a prion. The way in which the disease is contracted and spread is not fully understood. The disease occurs in the UK and many other countries, with Australia and New Zealand being free of scrapie. The clinical signs include skin irritation, excitability, hind limb weakness and loss of condition which develops gradually months or years after the animal has become infected.
This is caused by a bacterium, Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, and affects adult cattle, sheep and goats. The disease may also affect wildlife, such as deer and rabbits. Sheep and goats generally lose weight with no other clinical signs. Infection is usually picked up at an early age from the faeces of an infected dam mother, or from other infected adults in the birth and early rearing environment.
Caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV)
This is an incurable viral disease of goats which, as it progresses, causes severe welfare problems such as loss of body condition, arthritis and or/mastitis (5).
Foot and Mouth
This is an infectious disease caused by a virus (of which there are 7 types). The virus affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and deer. The disease is not normally fatal to adult animals but it does cause debilitation and loss of productivity for farmers (such as lameness). The virus causes a fever and the development of blisters, mostly in the mouth and on the feet. Animals contract the disease by either direct contact with an infected animal or contact with foodstuffs, etc. which have become contaminated by an infected animal.
This is an important disease in milking goats. Mastitis is a painful infection of the mammary gland (udder) caused mainly by bacteria such as streptococci, coliforms and staphylococci. Severe infections cause swelling of the udder, fever and sometimes death. Infection can lead to depressed appetite, dehydration and severe diarrhoea and can be fatal. Mastitis is commonly caused by poor hygiene in cubicle houses and milking parlours. When milk is extracted by a method known as vacuum pulsation, this means that tissue may be weakened and so more prone to infection. Over milking can also cause teat injuries leading to mastitis.
Goats live for 10-12 years, some as long as 30 years. In 2010, 11,277 goats were slaughtered in the UK (9,547 were slaughtered in 2009) (4). As most goat meat comes from kids, usually males which are surplus to the dairy herd, slaughter is carried out from the age of around 12 weeks old (2). In commercial flocks, breeding stock would normally be culled after 6 years (7).
Unless destined for certain religious/ritual slaughter, goats are stunned first (percussively/electrically) to render them unconscious. The blood vessels in their throats are then cut (sticking) and the animal dies by loss of blood (8) In percussive stunning a captive bolt pistol is held to the goats head so the bolt penetrates the skull and destroys the brain tissue. This should cause an instant loss of consciousness following collapse. If the brain tissue is not destroyed then the animal may come around. The use of a captive bolt does not always successfully stun the animal. The most common failure in stunning is due to improper positioning of the bolt, which is a particular problem where animals are agitated and struggling. Other problems may be due to inadequate maintenance of the pistol. Mis-stunning causes considerable distress and can mean the animal is still conscious during throat cutting. The period of unconsciousness induced by stunning should be longer than the period between stunning and sticking plus the time taken for sticking to induce brain death. When animals are stunned electrically, an electric current is applied by means of two electrodes in the form of tongs. These are placed on either side of the brain. The current should induce a state of immediate epilepsy (electroplectic shock) in the brain, during which time the animal is unconscious. Stunning may often be ineffective and animals may regain consciousness during bleeding-out or even before throat-slitting (8).
1. Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs
2. Ewbank, R., Kim-Madslien, F. and Hart, C.B. (Editors). 1999. 4th Edition. Management and Welfare of Farm Animals. Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW).
3. Gregory, N.G. 2007 (2nd Edition). Animal Welfare & Meat Production.
4. Meat Hygiene Service.
5. Goats – Introduction to welfare and ownership. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
6. Cleon V Kimberling, D.V.M. 1999-2007. Introductory information on pet goats. www.goatworld.com
7. Scottish Agricultural College. www.sac.ac.uk
8. Compassion in World Farming. www.ciwf.org.uk
Any questions regarding this information sheet please contact email@example.com | Last updated March 2011
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