Goats

Goat hair

Most goats have two coats, a course hairy outer/guard coat and a soft undercoat (cashmere). The Angora goat has a single coat (mohair) which is coarser than cashmere but produced in larger quantities.

Cashmere is harvested by either shearing or combing, whereas mohair is harvested by shearing (5). 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 are culled after 6 years (5). Goats are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature; unless they are housed, they should only be shorn in suitable weather conditions. Combing is a preferred method in adverse weather conditions (1).  

 

  

Disease

Goats suffer from diseases such as scrapie, Johnes’ disease, Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV), foot and mouth disease and mastitis in milking goats (1).  

Scrapie

This is a fatal brain disease of sheep, and occasionally goats. The infection is caused by a protein called a prion. How 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 are 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.  
Johne's disease

This is caused by the 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 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 mastitis (5).  
Foot and Mouth Disease

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 which have become contaminated by an infected animal.  
Mastitis

This is a common disease in milking goats. Mastitis is a painful infection of the mammary gland (udder) caused by bacteria such as streptococci, coliforms and staphylococci. Severe infections cause swelling of the udder, fever and sometimes death. Infection can lead to loss of appetite, dehydration, severe diarrhoea and can be fatal. Mastitis is commonly caused by poor hygiene in cubicle houses and milking parlours. Milk is extracted by a method known as vacuum pulsation, causing the tissue to weaken and become more prone to infection. Over milking can cause teat injuries leading to mastitis.

Slaughter

Goats live for 10-12 years, some as long as 30 years. Male kids, surplus to the dairy herd, are slaughtered at 12 weeks old for meat (2). Breeding goats are usually slaughtered after 6 years (5).

Unless destined for religious/ritual slaughter, goats are stunned before having the blood vessels in their throats cut (sticking). In percussive stunning a captive bolt pistol is held to the head causing an instant loss of consciousness. However, the animal may regain consciousness if not performed correctly, for example improper positioning of the bolt in struggling animals. Mis-stunning causes considerable distress and the animal may still be conscious during sticking. Electric stunning involves an electric current applied by electrode tongs on either side of the brain. The current should induce a state of immediate epilepsy (electroplectic shock) in the brain, making animal unconscious (6).

References

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. RSPCA - Goats – Introduction to welfare and ownership.

4. Cleon V Kimberling, D.V.M. 1999-2007. Introductory information on pet goats

5. Scottish Agricultural College

6. Compassion in World Farming

Last updated September 2013

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