Take Steps To Prevent Shipping Fever In Goats

Follow these steps to protect your goats against shipping fever, a collection of ailments commonly associated with transporting livestock.

by Rachel Porter
PHOTO: Rachel Porter

Humans respond to stressful situations by releasing cortisol and adrenaline. A large amount of these levels in your body alters your immune system and suppresses your digestive system. Goats experience stress in the same way, especially during shipping.

Shipping goats creates stress for them because their nervous system goes into high alert due to their perceived imminent threat, resulting in what’s known as a very broad diagnosis of  “shipping fever.”

Signs of Shipping Fever

When animals are transported long distances (especially while traveling with animals from different sources), shipping fever can result in a variety of problems. 

  • Pink eye from bacteria spread through the air 
  • Diarrhea or scours from change in feed  
  • Coccidia scours from stress 
  • Mastitis from their mammary gland being exposed to a dirty environment  
  • A number of other diseases occurring from challenges to the immune system 

In essence, environmental stress compromises the immune system. As a result animals fall victim to ailments either already present or in the new environment.

“Often shipping fever begins as a viral infection that turns into bacterial overgrowth,” explains Dr. Lionel J. Dawson,(BVSC., MS DACT), a professor at both Langston University and Oklahoma State University specializing in small ruminant animals.

Read more: Follow these tips to provide goats the shelter they need!

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Signs of Shipping Fever

Typical symptoms include: change in behavior, depression, lethargy, going off feed, hyperventilation, increased rectal temperature, coughing nasal discharge and diarrhea.

Dawson gives helpful field assessment advice. “Goats are actively alert animals. If they appear to isolate themselves, keep their head down or their tail is down, they are stressed and something is going on.

“Watch their side move as they breathe. If the respiration or rib cage moves more than 25 to 30 times per minute, they are stressed. Check their temperature, which should read between 101.5-103.5 degrees F.

“Pull down their eyelid and check the membranes around the eye ball, which should be a good healthy pink color.”

If you suspect your animal is not healthy, call your veterinarian. 

Read more: Thinking about adding goats to your urban farm? Ask yourself these 10 questions first.


Dr. Dawson recommends taking the following steps to prevent shipping fever when animals are traveling over four hours. The same applies to livestock traveling with animals from different farms. 

  • Make sure the goats are healthy.
  • Confirm they have received CD/T vaccinations against Clostridium perfringens type C and D (overeating disease) and Clostridium tetani (tetanus).
  • Treat the goats with an intranasal vaccine used in cattle before shipping
  • Ensure the animals are well hydrated. 
  • Boost their immune system with supplements such as Nutri Drench. 
  • Give the goats good quality hay to eat during travel (not grain).
  • Provide roomy travel accommodations and clean to eliminate dust and bacteria.
  • Once the animals arrive at their new home, quarantine them for two to four weeks so you can easily observe them and treat any problems before they spread to your current herd. 
  • Treat the goats with a long-acting antibiotic when they are in quarantine (if they did not receive an intranasal vaccine).

You can’t always prevent shipping fever, but taking proactive steps can definitely help your new goats. If you notice symptoms of shipping fever, early treatment guarantees the best results.

When in doubt, always call your vet. 

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