Increasing body heat in dairy goat kids born during cold New York winters

Report for FNE13-774

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2013: $8,035.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
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Project Information

Project Objectives:

Goat Valley Farm, located in Allegany, NY , which is in Cattaraugus County, has been raising dairy goats for 5 years. The kidding season for this farm, as well as many others in this area runs from January through May each year. This kidding season is common because goats are seasonal breeders and it is advised to schedule kidding prior to the warm months so that there are fewer problems with coccidiosis (diarrhea that can result in dehydration and death in young goats). Warm, damp weather is conducive to coccidiosis outbreaks in goat herds. One of the major downfalls of kidding goats in the winter months is that cold temperatures make it a challenge to keep newborn and growing kids warm. In a review written by Young (1981) and published in the Journal of Animal Science, the lower critical temperature for newborn cattle is reported to be around 41 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the temperature below which a newborn calf would need to produce extra heat (from feed) in order to maintain its internal body temperature. Data was not provided for goats; however, goats and cows are both ruminants and newborns of both species can experience similar stresses early in life. These stresses may be magnified in goats because of their smaller body size (a newborn kid weighs 7-9 pounds, a newborn calf weighs 60-90 pounds). Adult dairy goats do not have a great amount of subcutaneous fat and newborns have very little body reserves to draw from in the event of cold stress. Newborns eat less than two cups of colostrum or whole milk at each feeding for the several months of life(

In an article focusing on cold weather management of dairy calves, it is recommended that calves increase their energy intake by 50% when the temperature reaches zero degrees Fahrenheit( drama-coming-calf-pen-you/). This would be very difficult to do for such small animals in their early days of life. It is important to strive for efficient growth rates for young animals since they reflect the amount of feed being used to achieve growth and the amount of time it will take for the growing animal to reach puberty. A doeling, female goat kid, reaches puberty by 6 to 8 months of age. They should be bred between 7 to 10 months of age, providing they have reached 60% of their mature adult body weight. If they have not achieved this minimum weight for breeding by fall of their first year of life, they may have to wait another year to be bred. This is inefficient since a year’s worth of feed and inputs would be wasted by not having the animal bred to produce milk and more young stock when they are around 1 year of age.

The first step in being prepared for kidding season is to purchase the materials needed to make the goat coats and make them. We will plan enough for 12 coats in each of 3 sizes (this should allow for many does to have triplets which is common). A prototype of the goat coats was constructed last year and we will make necessary adjustments from there to improve the design and fit of the coats that we make. A portable bench scale will be purchased from Valley Vet Supply for $89.95 to provide accurate weights, a crucial part of determining the degree of effectiveness of the goat coats.

In 2012, Goat Valley Farm has 34 does being bred to kid from late January until early May, and 3 younger ones are being kept dry. The breed distribution is 17 Nubians, 12 Alpine, and 5 Oberhasli. Our goal is to have half of the kids wearing a goat coat (test group)and half of the kids without (control group). We also want to evenly distribute the bucklings and doelings, as well as the different breeds within these groups. In order to achieve an even distribution within test and control groups, we will have the first buck and first doe born to each breed group (Nubian, Alpine, and Oberhasli) receive a goat coat and the second buck and second doe within each breed group not wear a coat. The pattern will continue from there. It will be possible for both twins from the same doe to be allocated to the coat group (or not) if the twins are a buck and a doe. Most does had twins or triplets in the 2012 kidding season.

Every doe has human supervision at kidding in case she needs assistance. The kids are immediately removed from their dams (to prevent the spread of CAE), placed in a warming area, and dried off. Birth weights will be recorded, kids will be given 1 cc of BOSE (routine newborn kid care), and coats placed on kids in the test group. The kids are fed three to four meals of colostrum, ad libitum, in the first 24 hours. After 24 hours they are placed in a pen with free choice cold cow’s milk. They will have access to free choice milk from 24 hours old until weaning. All kids are retained on the farm until weaning. Kids who will be kept for breeding will be dehorned around 7 days of age and bucks not being retained for breeding are sold at weaning without being dehorned (the buyer requests no dehorning). This is the usual protocol at Goat Valley. In the event that a kid dies during the first 48 hours of life, the next kid of the same breed and sex will be assigned to the dead kid’s treatment group, then we will return to the regular system for treatment assignments.

Catherine and Jennifer will record weekly weights on each kid until weaning when the coats will be removed. Goats will be weighed on a portable bench scale in the morning prior to fresh milk being provided in the feeder buckets. Kids treated for illness, routine shots, vaccinations, and wormings will be recorded in the goats’ individual health pages so that we can see if there is any effect of goat coats (and potentially warmer core body temperatures) on disease incidence among the kids as well. The details of the current protocols for well-goat preventative care is included in the following: From birth to weaning: Deccox M (coccidiostat to prevent diarrhea) in milk (start at 2.5 cc and move up to 5 cc as they grow) Starting early June and continuing every 45 days, Corid drench 5 days in a row with dosage based on body weight, with final drench in September. Kid shot schedule: Bo-se 1cc injection given to all kids at birth CDT @ 4, 8, 12 weeks (then yearly) Bo-Se @ 8, 16, 24, 30 weeks (then 4w before Kidding) Worming at 6, 12, and 18 weeks of age, then as needed Each week as the kids are weighed the data will be entered into the spreadsheet and the rate of gain will be automatically calculated using the weights. These numbers will allow us to quickly see if there is a trend for the kids wearing goat coats to have a higher rate of gain than their herd mates.

Statistical analyses will be conducted to determine if there is statistical significance to these findings. The statistical model will take into account goat breed, air temperature, sex, sire, dehorning status, and week of kidding. Several herd sires are used at Goat Valley Farm and each will likely pass on a different genetic potential for growth rate. Data will initially be analyzed with SAS software, then ASREML may also be used depending on the complexity of pedigree analysis. Pedigrees can be traced back several generations and it may provide useful information to increase the depth of ancestry beyond sire. This will be decided after initial analyses are complete. Data will be analyzed over the entire duration of the project and with smaller windows of time to determine if there is a “critical” time of growth (such as the first month of life or first six weeks, etc.) where the goat coat provides the greatest benefit. This information would be useful to streamlining the use of the coats to a smaller window of time, reducing the need for so many different sizes of coats to get optimum benefits. Since the timing of the announcement of project approval is well into the 2013 kidding season, this project will begin in January 2014. It isn’t known at this time how many does will kid that season, but the numbers should be similar to or higher than the 2013 numbers. Each doe often has twins or triplets, so well over 60 kids will be born and used in the study. Sixty kids should provide for a sample size large enough to detect potential differences in rate of gain between test and control groups. Detecting treatment differences for health events typically requires much larger data sets, sometimes even into the thousands of observations. Any differences noted in health of the kids will likely be anecdotal at best.


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  • Lisa Kempisty


Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.