Vaccinate your goat

Marissa     Animal Husbandry         2    

Having a couple of pets in the city means at least yearly visits to the vet. But having livestock is different. Most farmers do a fair bit of their own vetting. The easiest of which is giving vaccinations. It’s not cost effective to have a vet out to give shots to your whole herd so it is one of the first vetting skills you should master. Plus, it’s easy!

This is about one particular vaccine – CD/T – that we give subcutaneously (subQ).

To give vaccinations, you first need to know what your goats (or other livestock) needs. There are a lot of possibilities out there and your choice will depend on your area as well as your own personal opinions. The one vaccine we give to our goats without fail every year is called CD/T (or CD&T or CD-T). It stands for Clostridium perfringinstypes types C and D and tetanus toxoid. The first is what causes ‘enterotoxemia’ or over-eating disease. And tetanus is the same thing as in humans and can be quite fatal. So we vaccinate.

You don’t need any fancy equipment to do your own vaccines. In fact, you really only need 4 things – the vaccine, an alcohol wipe, the needle and the syringe. For our adult goats, we use an 18 gauge needle. They are sized like piercing or wire – the bigger the number, the smaller the size. For babies, we use 22 gauge. Here are all the supplies you need…plus a curious goat schnoz. (I narrowly missed catching the goat pick up the needle in her mouth! Good thing it was still in the sleeve and she didn’t swallow…)


When you purchase new vaccines (or other meds sold in these types of bottles) there is usually a metal ring around the whole top with a ‘button’ in the middle. Just pop the button off and leave the metal around the rubber stopper. You will put the needle through the rubber part, so you don’t need to open the whole bottle up. The alcohol wipe is to clean the top of the bottle. I have to admit that I don’t always do this. But with a new bottle or one that is stored out in the open, I always do. This particular vaccine we store in the fridge which is pretty clean, but I wiped it anyway. Just a simple swipe to get anything off that you might otherwise push into the sterile contents of the container with the needle.


With that done, it’s time to actually draw the medicine. Open the syringe (they come in either the paper/plastic package as shown or a hard plastic tube. I prefer the pictured packaging because it seems like less waste). Attach the needle to the syringe. There are two attachment methods – lure-slip and lure-lock. I prefer the lock – you turn the base of the needle about a half turn into threads on the syringe. I have found that most vets prefer the slip – you just push the base of the needle onto the end of the syringe. Either is fine, it’s just a preference. Just be sure you get needles and syringes that match as they aren’t interchangeable.

The first step of drawing the vaccine is to pull the syringe plunger back to the amount you want. This vaccine is 2 cc for any goat, no matter the size or age. So I pull the plunger back to 2 cc, filling the syringe with air.


Then stick the needle into the bottle of medicine and push the air in. Hold the bottle upside down and make sure the needle is still in the liquid – when a bottle is partially empty, you don’t want the needle in the air above. All of this allows the liquid to flow easily – otherwise, you would be pulling a vacuum in the container and it would be difficult to draw. In fact, after you push in the air, you can let go of the plunger and the syringe will start filling without much effort from you. Go ahead and pull back to the 2 cc line again.


Even with this method, you will end up with some air in the syringe. For this type of shot it won’t kill the animal to have a tiny air bubble in there but you might as well get it out. After you pull the needle out, hold the syringe perfectly upright and tap a bit to get any bubbles in the middle. BARELY squeeze the plunger in until you get a drop from the needle. Of course, you will frequently squirt a bit out instead of one drop. Don’t worry – it won’t be too much so you won’t need to refill unless you really squeezed hard. The whole needle will be full so your plunger might not read exactly 2 cc anymore, but it should be close.


Now the real fun begins. Sometimes we give shots in the milk room with a goat in the stanchion, other times I give them shots “in the field”. I actually prefer the later because the light is better and I have more freedom to get into position. But if it’s a difficult or very large goat, they go into the stanchion.

The first, and most important, step of giving shots in the field is to PUT THE CAP ON THE NEEDLE. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled with a goat with the needle hanging out and me terrified I’m going to stab something I shouldn’t. So get the cap on until you have the goat in position.

I prefer the method of forming a stanchion with my legs. I face the goat and move the goat’s head between my legs until the shoulders are against my thighs. Squeeze enough so that when the goat’s natural instinct to flee kicks in, he or she is pushing on your legs with the shoulders and doesn’t simply slip between your legs. Bend your knees some too so you can brace yourself!


Once you are in position, pull the cap off the needle (I use my mouth…and yes the vaccine tastes bad!). This vaccine (most vaccines) are injected subcutaneously (subQ), meaning underneath the skin and not in the muscle. There are several places to do this but I have found the easiest to be right behind where the front leg meets the body. Pull the skin up into a ‘tent’ – find the loosest section of skin you can. You can poke one finger onto the skin tent to get a good idea of where the needle will go. Goats are hairy so sometimes you need to use feel more than look.


Once the tent is pulled up, just stick the stick the needle in and push the plunger! Make sure you only go through one layer of skin – it’s the first ‘pop’. You’ll know if you go through two – the liquid will run down the goat’s leg. I’ve also had goats squirm enough that the needle comes out and again the liquid goes down the leg. Just take a deep breath and do it again! You will know when you did it right when there is a small lump under the skin. You can use the same needle a few times but it gets more dull with every poke, making it harder to insert and hurting the animal more.

That’s it! You will save a lot of time and money learning to do simple shots like this yourself. Shots in the muscle are only a wee but harder so don’t feel apprehensive about learning that either.


  • Cody said:

    May 01, 2014 3:39 am

    This is one of the practices I found invaluable after leaving. Stanchioning the goat like that made them so much easier to handle. Great example.

    • Marissa replied:

      May 01, 2014 9:33 am

      Hey Cody!!! How have you been? Where are you these days? Did you go to Mike’s?