Purchasing goats is the exciting culmination of time and communication. Most buyers are familiar with typical pre-purchase considerations such as genetics, conformation, disease status and general health, and of course, location and price. Here are few additional things to consider before purchasing.
Climate Changing locales and eventual introduction into a new herd is stressful and a drastic change in climate can increase stress. Goat breeds originated, with a some exceptions, in arid deserts or mountains. While goats can thrive in various climates, adjustment can take time. Genetic adaptation takes generations. Excessive moisture, especially humidity, is not the ideal goat environment. Humid heat especially can cause heat stress in an animal unused to those conditions. Goats moving from dry, cool areas to humid, warm areas might initially benefit from additional cooling methods such as implementation of barn fans or buckets of cold water to lie against. A goat sometimes has sparse or non-existent cashmere undercoat, making it particularly susceptible to the cold – this goat might be fine in the southern states but need extra attention if moved to an area with serious winters. Goats with inadequate cashmere coats might need extra calories, a safe heat source, or a blanket or coat. The difference between a buyer’s climate and the seller’s climate probably won’t be such a serious consideration as to dissuade the buyer, but might tell the buyer to be extra-vigilant about the goat’s health until it grows accustomed to its new home.
General Management Practices Goats are successfully raised across a wide spectrum of management styles; management varies greatly from producer to producer, from micro-managed operations to “survival of the fittest.” Most farms are somewhere in between the two extremes. It is wise to evaluate the general management practices of a producer compared to your own before purchasing, especially considering diet. Generally speaking, it is easier for a goat to transition from a less-intensively managed operation than a very management-intense operation. For example, goats accustomed to free-choice alfalfa and large grain rations might lose condition when brought into a farm that primarily utilizes forage. Conversely, goats unaccustomed to rich legumes or grain rations will need to be introduced to their new diet gradually. A sudden increase in these supplementations can lead to many health problems – slow changes are the key. A goat used to walking a few steps to a buffet might lose condition when introduced to a farm where it is expected to traverse large areas or rough terrain. Goats in good body condition used to ranging might become over-conditioned when moved to a farm that utilizes dry-lotting and 24-7 availability of high-quality hay like alfalfa. Most changes in condition because of a change in diet won’t be long-lasting, but the buyer should understand the goat’s current management to better care for the animal at its new farm.
The most important consideration often over-looked is parasite management. When you buy the goat, you buy the worms, so the adage goes. If the new animal has internal parasites, especially Barber Pole worms, and is not dewormed prior to introduction into your herd, that animal will be shedding eggs in your pasture. Those eggs will hatch into larvae for your herd to pick up. Those larvae will mature and mate with worms already in your animals, passing on their genetic material.
It is possible to prevent initial egg shedding by deworming the animal with an effective product or products that show a 100% reduction rate in the fecal egg counts. However, if you do not test the effectiveness of the treatment, or have no effective treatment, there is a very good chance a few worms will survive. The impact of these surviving worms may or may not be serious, depending on a few things. If there is not a good kill rate, of course, the number of surviving worms will increase, as will their impact on your herd. Ask the breeder what dewormer he or she uses.
By understanding anthelmentics classes, you can hypothesize if the goat is harboring parasites that will either be resistant or susceptible to the class of dewormer effective on your farm. For example, in terms of strongyle treatment, the imidazothiazole Levamisol (one brand name is Prohibit®), is considered the most-effective class and the benzimidozoles or “white dewormers” the least effective. If the farm you are purchasing from already uses levamisol while you typically and effectively use the albendazole (which is a benzimidozole) Valbazen®, it is almost certain that the parasites in your new animal will be resistant to Valbazen®. If you typically and effectively use ivermectin 1% and the seller typically uses moxidectin, it is possible that these parasites will not be effectively killed with ivermectin, even though both moxidectin and ivermectin are in the macrocyclic lactone class. Moxidectin is more potent. For a great overview of classes, read “Choosing the Right Drug for Worm Control” by Lisa Williamson DVM, MS, DACVIM. The full text is available at the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control website. There are a few studies indicating that, for a short time, it is possible that bringing in susceptible parasites (i.e. the seller successfully deworms with a white dewormer while you use ivermectin) will dilute resistant parasite populations. Of course, this depends on several factors, and has only been successfully implemented in more intensively-managed grazing operations. The effects of this dilution were generally short-lived – a study where resistance was measured over 3 years later showed anthelmentic failure again – but the subject is still being researched. For more information, check out “Replacement of Resistant Worms with Susceptible Worms – Can We Do It, and Is It Sustainable?” by Melissa George, BS, MS at WormBoss.com.
Additionally, consider if the goats were dry-lotted or hale from farms located in climates inhospitable for many parasites, especially the humidity and heat-loving Barber Pole worm. Some breeders live in parts of the country where Barber Pole worms simply aren't an issue - how will that goat fare when moved to the southeast where the Barber Pole abounds? Will the goats suffer because they've had little previous exposure, no time to build up a natural immunity? Will it be dependent on the goat's natural genetic resistance and resilience - and will that suffer if the goats have been raised without exposure to parasites for generations? I've not found formal studies on this and my own experience has been varied, but I think it is a very interesting topic. Ask for deworming records and methods.
How often has the herd been dewormed? How often has the individual goat you are considering purchasing required treatment? Some farms accept a higher number of treatments year; others are quite strict and cull animals that need repeated treatments, especially in comparison to herdmates. A few do not tolerate an animal that needs dewormed, period. To slow anthelmentic resistance, a general rule of thumb is animals should not need dewormed more than three times a year.
If the breeder chemically deworms on a schedule, seriously consider passing on that animal. This outdated practice is proven to very strongly select for resistant parasites and is one of the causes of complete anthelmentics failure in some farms – this means the parasites are resistant to every class of dewormer – and useless classes in others. Remember that the best method for deworming is not to deworm on a schedule but by need. Does the seller deworm the entire herd or select only the animals that need treatment based on fecals, FAMACHA, and condition and thereby slow resistance and increase refugia? For more information on dewormers and deworming practices, please refer to the blog posts “The Barber Pole Worm” and “Are You Deworming Your Goats Correctly?” Ask about resistance and resilience of the sire and dam.
Studies have proven both resistance and resilience to parasite infections is moderately heritable. Breeding animals that require more-than-average treatments can negatively impact the herd’s genetics. Culling those less-hardy animals and breeding stock that requires fewer dewormings than the herd average can positively influence subsequent generations. It takes time, but it is a worthwhile effort to breed for animals that are more naturally tolerant or resistant to parasite burdens. Will the new animal’s genes, in relation to parasite resistance or resilience, positively or negatively affect your herd? Consider these few additional things before purchasing to better acclimate your new goat, improve or maintain the parasite resistant or resilient genes in your herd, or avoid purchasing an influx of tough-to-treat parasites.