Thursday, January 2, 2014

Drawing Blood from Goats for CAE Testing

Some of my more sane friends undoubtedly celebrate the new year by spending leisurely hours recovering from New Year's eve celebrations, watching parades, and taking in a few football games.  Here on the farm we took advantage of a sunny and mild January day to draw blood from 16 goats for our annual health testing.  My goat buddy, Melissa from Indigo Acres Farm, spent her holiday at our farm actually drawing the blood while I held goats.  For more info regarding the farm services offered please check out her website.

In order to draw blood from a goat, a syringe is inserted into the jugular vein and about 2ccs of blood is removed.  The blood is transferred into a Vacutainer, labeled with each goat's name and then mailed to the testing lab using Priority Mail.  We use Biotracking in Idaho who then emails us the results in just a few days.  The procedure is not terribly difficult and many owners are learning to do their own blood draws which makes testing very economical. There are many videos demonstrating this technique.  You can view one here.

Our main focus of testing is Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis (CAE), a retro-virus that can cause acute encephalitis in kids and chronic joint disease in adults animals.  For those interested in learning more about this disease, an excellent overview can be found here.  It is generally transmitted from mothers to babies via milk.  One of the issues with CAE is that it can remain dormant in the goat therefore it is important to test regularly because an animal's status may change over the years.  We test for CAE annually, as part of our herd health program in order to determine the CAE status of our herd. We try to test prior to kidding season because we like to have the option of letting kids nurse from their moms.  Some breeders routinely remove kids at birth and bottle feed pasteurized milk regardless of the CAE status of the mothers. Fortunately as more and more herds are routinely tested for CAE, the incidence of this disease will hopefully decrease.


  1. Is there treatment for CAE and do you only test the does for it if your main concern is passing it onto the kids?

  2. There is really no treatment for CAE. It is very similar to HIV in humans. It can lie dormant and then something sets it off. It can affect the adults causing severe arthritis and other things thus limiting their productivity. Most folks with CAE positive does manage them differently (often housed separately) because it can be passed via blood as well so it is always good to know their status. The most likely route however is via milk to the kids. Through careful management CAE can eventually be eliminated in the herd. It is best to avoid it altogether and that is why many buyers now only buy goats from tested herds.