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goat keeping, health information

Milk Neck / Milk Goiter
Neck Swelling / Neck Abscess

It's normal; Vets do not know
about it and

No, it isn't CL!!

As you can see I am not totally sure what to title this page, but I wanted to make it easy to find for people looking for this information. Let me start by telling you a story that took place the first year we had goats/kids....

We didn't know too much about goats, but we purchased many books and did our best to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.

About two months after a certain Nubian kid was born we noticed a "swelling" on her neck, where her chin met her neck. We were concerned and consulted every book we had trying to figure out the problem. After much research the only thing it seemed like it could be (according to the books) was "CL" (Caseous Lymphadenitis) . Larry, after consulting the Merck Veterinary Manual said it was probably an infection of the lymph gland called CL and it was very contagious, that would eventually come to head, burst, and be a real nightmare (to put it in simple terms for this story).

Well, we were quite worried, so we took the kid to the vet. The vet looked the kid over and left the room for about 5-10 minutes. She returned and said, almost, word for word what Larry had said after consulting the Merck Vet manual. We looked at each other and knew that the vet had just looked it up in a book like we did. She told us that the abscess would burst and be contagious, so we had to put the kid up, away from all the other goats and wait for it to come to head and burst. Then, we would have our work cut out for us keeping it clean and trying not to have the other goats infected. To put it lightly we were very saddened by this.

We took the kid home, and put her up in a stall, away from all the other goats and let her mother in to nurse her a few times a day. We were very sad that this kid was missing the best time of her life being locked up in a stall while all the other kids played outside. But, we were following the vet's instructions and thought we were doing the right thing. After a couple weeks, the "abscess" didn't get any bigger and it did not seem to be coming to a head. We just couldn't keep the kid jailed any longer. Our instincts were telling us this wasn't CL, like the books and vet said, and we decided that we would let her out.

The months passed and the abscess/swelling stayed the same. Then, in the Fall when her mother naturally weaned her, the swelling on the kid decreased. hmmmm...

After talking with other goat breeders about their experiences in kid raising, we started to find that sometimes kids got this neck swelling. The next year we saw it in a couple kids again. Interestingly, the kids' mothers were our best milkers. We started to see a connection between the kids that drank lots of milk from their mothers and neck swellings. We started calling the swelling "Milk Neck".

We have seen what we call Milk Neck, also referred to as "Milk Goiter", in many kids over the years now. It has never shown to be any sort of big health problem. Actually, it's a sign that the mother is a good milker, and now a days, when we see a kid with Milk Neck, it is a good thing, not bad.

How can you tell if it is Milk Neck and not another health problem?

There are a few health issues and/or diseases that can look quite similar, especially if you do not have a lot of experience.

  • Milk Neck - If the swelling is soft, is located on the chin/throat, right where the chin and throat meet, and the goat is a kid. It is probably Milk Neck. The size of the swelling varies greatly, from barely noticeable, to quire large. It is soft. It is not a hard lump.
  • Bottle Jaw - If the swelling is further up on the chin, on the jaw, this could be "bottle jaw" which is a sign of severe parasite infestation. It is soft. It is not a hard lump. The goat needs to be wormed with a chemical wormer ASAP. If not treated right away, death could result. This usually happens in adults goats, not kids.
  • CL - If it is a hard lump, usually about the size of a quarter, and is located in the area of a lymph glad, it could be CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis) and you should consider having it looked at by a vet.
  • Vaccination Abscess - If it is a hard lump and is near a site that recently was the site of a vaccination injection, it could be a vaccination abscess- reaction to the injection. When we used to vaccinate, we had goats get abscesses at the injection site all the time. The bump will go away eventually, but may take up to a year to do so. It also may (or may not) come to a head and burst, but it is not contagious.
  • Insect Sting. - If it is a small hard lump, it could be the result of an insect sting.

Who gets Milk Neck?

I have seen this in kids of all ages, but usually between about 1 - 4 months of age (I have seen it as early as 2 weeks). You usually see it in kids that are nursing their mother, and their mother is a heavy milk producer.

Interestingly, we have seen Milk Neck mostly in Nubians, or goats with Nubian blood, though we have seen it on other breeds of dairy & meet goats as well in sheep.

What vets say about Milk Neck:

I have never met a vet yet who has ever heard of anything like Milk Neck in goats. They will almost always diagnose it as CL or sometimes a goiter (hence the name "Milk Goiter").  There is no medication the vet can give that will make the Milk Neck go away.

Also, since it is most common in Nubians, breeders of other types of goats may not have any have heard of it, or have any experience with it either.

What should do you do about Milk Neck?

Nothing, it is fine, really, take my word for it. The condition is not harmful and it will go away when the mother naturally weans the kid. There is no reason to stress out the kid, and mother, by feeling you must wean to kid.

There is no reason to feel you must treat this issue. There are some who say it is caused by an iron deficiency due to lack of iron in the milk, this may or may not be the case, but I will tell you we have had many instances of this over the years and have never seen a long term health problem caused by it. The kid is fine and the milk neck will go away when the mother weans her kid. We'd rather get big happy, healthy, well fed kids with a pudgy neck than smaller, less happy, less healthy kids with "normal" necks. The kids with milk neck tend to be the larger kids, so that goes to show it really is not something you have to worry about.


What does Milk Neck look like?

CLICK HERE for Milk Neck Photo Gallery



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