The problem of Nigerian Dwarfs (in particular) developing a front leg orthopedic problem is widespread. Because of this post, I regularly receive emails and messages about people all over the US who have this problem. Many have shared photos and videos that confirm the similarity. Let me first tell you our story and then I’ll cover what has seemed to help prevent it at Pholia Farm.
We got our first Nigerian Dwarf goats in 2003. We observed our first “limping goat” in 2004. When it starts, it is barely noticeable. The animal might hold one front leg, unbent, at a slight angle out in front when standing or upon getting up. When walking, you might notice a barely perceptible limp. I have seen this even at a few weeks of age. Usually when it happens young, it goes away. But not always. The next scenario I have seen more often. The animal is usually over two years old and shows the same symptoms very suddenly. It might stay mild or it might not. Most of the emails I get are from people who see this in their 2 year old Nigerian bucks.
Here are a few of the cases we’ve had over the years:
SGCH Pholia Farm KM Harriet 3*M : This amazing doe was about three years old and pregnant when her limp began. Being such a valuable milker (a breed leader) and show goat we took her to the vet for radiographs. A bone chip showed in her knee. After many months, it got worse, with the knee appearing to arch backward, and her entire front end movement was compromised. We still have Harriet in the retirement pen and she gets around, but is obviously compromised. In the photo here you can see her holding her leg out in front. For most goats, it is the right leg that is a problem, but for a couple it has been the left. (This same truism has been noticed by the appraisers in other Nigerian herds)
SGCH Pholia Farm HB Angelica 6*M: Anther amazing doe, who is now nine and still in milk. Jelly, as we call her, developed her limp at age two upon being moved into the main doe pen with other young does. The limp was slight, but her knee still developed the backwards arch and was noticed at the 2009 National show by the judges. At our 2013 LA, I was discussing this whole issue with Sam Whiteside and pulled Jelly out of the pen to show him what it looks like in a mild case long term. Well, her knee no longer arched back and she no longer limps, but it took many years and was never as severe as Harriet’s. Like most Nigerians, both does share a few relatives, but neither one’s parents had “the limp”.
Pholia Farm HB Miel 3*M: This doe is very interesting as she was appraised in 2013 by Sam Whiteside, and at the time we were discussing the problem. Miel was a milking 2 or 3 year old. After the appraisal, Sam said “you know what, I think this doe is going to start limping”. He had detected a slight change in the angle of her right knee. A month later, she limped. Now she is very bad and I will probably have to euthanize her. Miel and Angelica have the same father, Bullseye.
++ B Rosasharn SS Aquarius: One of the first bucks we ever purchased at the same time as Bullseye, Aquarius toed out on the right and developed the limp on the right as a 4 year old buck. It was never as severe as Harriets, but didn’t get better. He was euthanized. As with the other goats that we have had with this problem, you cannot predict if any descendants or relatives will also have the problem.
Pholia Farm HB Alyss: A lovely doe who began showing signs of a very slight limp after sold, but still on our farm being bred. It became worse after leaving the farm (natural progression I am sure, no fault of anyone’s) Thank you Kristen for sharing this helpful video. Poor Alyss.
Theory on Cause and Suggested Preventative Approach
In my book, Holistic Goat Care (Chelsea Green Publishing 2014) I advocate the free choice, cafeteria (or buffet) style mineral supplementation method. In this approach, a broad array of individually focused mineral mixes, or minerals, is available 24/7. This allows the goat (or other livestock) to supplement their individual needs. We have used that method for over 5 years now and it is amazing to see how they use it! I documented it daily for the first 3 or 4 years and had plenty of occasions that appear to support the animal’s ability to make up for gaps in their diet. When you think about the almost infinite possible deficiencies and excesses in the soils and water across the country as well as the unique needs of different colored animals and those in different states of growth, lactation, pregnancy, etc., it seems obvious that no pre-mixed mineral mix, which are meant to be sold all over a region or nation, could possibly meet the animals actual needs. Given that Nigerian Dwarfs have come more recently from an equatorial region, it is quite likely that they differ even more than the other common breeds in the US.
So far (knock on wood!) all of the goats born from mothers who had this supplementation available and then daily access to it afterward, even as young kids, have not had any signs of the limp. I dearly hope to never see it again, but time will tell!
I hope that other breeders will share any information that they have on similar problems. Or email me privately to share. Thanks! Gianaclis
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