Animal Welfare Research Needs for Goats

Following is a list of research priorities gaps identified during the goats Code development process. Click here to visit the Goats Code web page for the Scientific Committee report and to view the full Code.

Natural Behaviours

  • Goats’ preference for elevated surfaces presents an opportunity for using multi-level environments; research is needed to determine how these environments should be organized.
  • Research is needed on doe preference to hide at kidding in commercial systems (e.g., self-isolation in partitions or hides).
  • Different combinations of flooring must be explored to determine benefits (behavioural and economical) of goats’ preferential bedding/flooring use.
  • Physical and cognitive benefits of providing outdoor space in commercial settings are not yet quantified.
  • Research is needed to explore the impact of buck to doe ratios on behaviour, performance, and welfare.
  • Research is needed to assess the influence of smaller group sizes on behavioural and production measures, as well as practical options for implementing choice for goats to segregate into smaller group sizes.
  • Goat enrichment needs to be explored, including the impact of early life exposure. Preference testing is needed to determine what enrichment goats prefer and which options best utilize and promote their cognitive capabilities.

Lameness Due to Poor Hoof Care and Nutritional Diseases

  • The effect of flooring and bedding on foot health and trimming frequency must be established.
  • There is little research on the relationship between trimming frequency and foot health in a controlled setting.
  • Endpoints are needed for determining when a lame goat should be euthanized.
  • Research on causes of lameness (including the multifactorial causes of granulomas lesions, SARA, and specific pathogens) is needed.

Space Allowance

  • Research is needed on feeder, waterer, and space allowance for different breeds and different production stages, and comparing horned and hornless goats is required with a specific focus on welfare impacts.
  • Research is needed on water demand and preference in different commercial settings (i.e., dairy, meat, and fibre operations). Water flow rates at drinking stations should be considered when aiming to determine the most appropriate number of waterers per animal.
  • Most research focuses on minimum space allowance; more research is needed on production and welfare effects of higher space allowances.
  • Research on space allowance has focused mainly on one-level barns. Goats naturally use elevated space when given the opportunity; research is needed to establish appropriate space allowance for multi-level systems.
  • Space allowance needs to be evaluated in the context of group size.

End-of-Life Management

  • Research is lacking on improving the welfare outcomes of exsanguination without stunning in goats.
  • Research is needed to improve producer awareness, uptake, and training to make captive bolt devices more accessible to producers.

Painful Procedures

  • More research is needed on acute and long-term pain mitigation protocols for disbudding and castrating kids, including the efficacy of NSAIDs.
  • Castration research in goats is limited, and research is needed to compare which methods result in the least amount of pain, both acute and chronic.
  • Research on the effect of age at the time of castration is needed.
  • Research into alternatives to disbudding (e.g., best practice for managing horned goats) is needed.
  • Research exploring the use of genes or gene markers to assist in the breeding of polled animals without reproductive issues should be explored.
  • Research on horn tipping in goats is required to evaluate the procedure and determine its impact on goat welfare.

Perinatal Management to Optimize Kid Health

Goat kid health and mortality research is limited in amount, scope, and quality. A large number of the studies encountered in this review were found to make recommendations based on either poorly described or poorly designed studies. Suggested research areas include:

  • Determining the total amount of colostrum to be fed to kids to ensure the successful passive transfer of immunity and to satisfy kids’ nutritional requirements.
  • Determining what constitutes “good quality” colostrum (i.e., the IgG concentration in colostrum that provides adequate passive transfer).
  • Determining if antibodies from non-caprine species circulate as long as antibodies from a caprine source.
  • Determine the effectiveness of different colostrum administration methods (e.g., voluntary suckling versus tube feeding).
  • Heat-treatment methods of colostrum and their effect on colostrum quality and pathogen load.
  • Use of other colostrum sources for kids with regards to the prevalence of failure of transfer of passive immunity, change in immune status over time, growth, and incidence of diseases.
  • Investigating milk replacer product components needed for kids.
  • Determining the impact of milk/milk replacer hygiene and milk requirements (i.e., amount, frequency, and delivery method) on kid health.