We got our first Nigerian Dwarf goats in 2003. We observed our first “limping goat” in 2004. Over the years we have seen this problem too many times and according to several ADGA linear appraisers and other breeders, we are not alone. Those of you who know me, Gianaclis, and know Pholia Farm also know that we don’t hide our problems. From mycoplasm to this mysterious limp, I believe that only harm is done by not sharing troubling experiences.
So here is the story, ours anyway, of this limp.
When it starts, you can barely notice. 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. Here are a few case studies:
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.
So what is going on?
Deficiency theory: We have a very well tended herd. A wide assortment of minerals, browse, and feeds are fed. Liver mineral content is analyzed when possible. In additon, I have copper bolused those with symptoms and tried homeopathic remedies. I don’t think the root cause is a nutritional deficiency.
Injury theory: We do have a very active herd. We take them hiking in the hills and have provided benches and climbing opportunities in the pens. In addition we have a livestock guardian dog that has frequently startled the goats at night causing them to jump from sleeping platforms, etc. Harriet’s bone chip supports the injury theory.
Genetic theory: Nigerian’s aren’t known for their great pasterns and legs. Many toe out, especially on the right. I believe that some of them might be more prone to front limb injuries thanks to being poorly put together. I don’t believe that it is passed on genetically as an injury, of course, but that some are more prone to being injured.
What to do?
We went almost two years without seeing any kids limp, but a couple of adults still succumbed to this problem as 2 and 3 year olds. Including one that I sold. As a breeder who is proud of their reputation, this is very distressing. I thought that maybe I had improved the kids odds of growing properly, by giving a vitamin supplement regularly, but just the other day (summer 2014) saw one limping. A kid with no close relatives to any of the above goats ( a great, great grandaughter of Aquarius). Her mom is fine and her dad too. It seems to be gone now, but I have noted it and will not sell her.
I hope that other breeders will share any information that they have on similar problems. Or email me privately to share. Thanks! Gianaclis