Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Noodleville How To: Goat Blood Draws

Y’all remember when I did that "How to Copper Bolus" post? At that time, I stated I was going to *try* to put up a series of “How To” post….. Well, here I am, almost 2 years later, finally getting around to another one. Sorry for the procrastination, but I wanted to be able to post LOTS of pictures and thanks to some wonderful helpers & fantastic goat models, I finally have a series of pictures to share.

Anywho….. To spare those who don’t like tons of extra reading, I’m going to outline the “How” first, and then below I’ll share my thoughts on the “WHY”. Do note, I’m not an expert, I am not a vet, and I am very well aware that my way is not the only way to do things, nor are my opinions shared by all. That’s fabulous, diversity makes the world go ‘round.. And on that nifty lil note of a disclaimer, I’ll share the Noodleville way draw blood on goats.

First, round up your supplies and get your paper work in order. For this series of blood draws, I was testing for CAE through Biotracking & a genetic disorder in Nubians called G6S through TVMDL. Gather & label your blood draw tubes. For most test, a red top tube is required and I like to use tubes that hold at least 3cc. For G6S, a purple/lavender top tube is required. Sample required is 2cc, but I always send 3cc “just in case”… I truly can’t tell you what the “just in case” is… It’s not like lil gremlins will be stealing bits of blood from my tubes leaving me short for testing once they hit the lab….. But I still feel this compulsive need to send that extra cc of blood… ANYWHO.. Let’s start with supplies…
Supply List:
~ Clippers to buzz down the area prior to drawing blood- Not a necessity, but makes it easier for me.
~ Alcohol
~ 3cc-6cc syringes
~ 20g needles. I prefer ½” – ¾” in length.
~ Blood Collection Tubes.
~ A helper or 2
~ Goats with blood in their veins.

Getting Down to Business:
~ Shave your goat’s neck on the left of the windpipe area.
~ Clean area well with alcohol.

For my bigger girls, or when I only have the children to help me, I place them on the milk stand and have my helper stand up there behind the head gate and hold their head up and slightly to the right. Don’t pull their head too far up, nor do you want their head jerked all the way to the right… I said “slightly” as too much of either can make getting the jugular vein a lil harder. If you have a strong helper, they can simply straddle the goat and hold head in proper position. If you don’t have a goatie helper handy, place goat on stand, put on a rope sheep halter, then tie their head slightly up, in the proper position to the head gate of the milk stand. And to those awesome folks who do your blood draws all by yourself, with no milk stand, halter or helper… You’re my hero and I sooooo wanna be like you when I grow up.

Now that the goat is restrained, neck shaved and injection site cleaned VERY well with alcohol we’re ready to get down to the poking bits. Please wash your hands or wear gloves.
 IV medication diagram
You’ll feel grooves along the windpipe and just to the left of that is where the jugular vein is located. Press down very firmly with your thumb and just watch.

IMG_20140104_151656_836 blood
Honestly, I’m NOT “flipping the bird” to anyone, lol .. Pay attention to the vein popping up, and not profane gesture look-a-likes
It won’t take long if you have your thumb in the right place and apply enough pressure… Soon you’ll start to see a ropey vein popping up. I tap it quite a few times with my middle finger while holding pressure below with my thumb and once I get a good, firm “bounce” on the vein, I’m ready to draw.
Use a NEW NEEDLE & SYRINGE on every goat. Make sure there is NO AIR what so ever in your syringe.

Place needle almost parallel to the neck and go UP into the vein. Do not stab “in” as you’ll go through the vein.
Once in place, draw back on the plunger.

You’ll be surprised at how fast and easy the syringe fills up if you’re in the right place. It should be effortless to draw back and get a syringe full of blood…. If you’re pulling and barely getting blood, you’re in the wrong place.

Once your syringe is full, pull needle down and out at the same angle in which you inserted it and press down on the injection site for a minute or so to stop any bleeding.

Most stop bleeding very fast, so don’t have images of blood and gore running amuck in your head. If they don’t stop fast, just hold it for a lil longer and I promise it will stop soon.

Give the goat a treat, a good scratching and apology for the poking and grab the next goat.

 IMG_20130828_192933_044   IMG_20130828_192840_156
See? Treat, then Miss Tricks is a happy goat again.
Now, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t go text book perfect. Sometimes you’ll miss the vein.  
Just take a deep breath, “bounce” the vein again until it is right, then try again (and again, and again if needed). If ya have to do it a few times, I’d grab a new needle as lots of pokes with the same needle dull it and it’s more comfy (as comfy as being poked can be anyways) to be poked by a sharp needle vs. a dull one. Make sure the head is up and positioned properly. I’ve found that if my helper pulls the head too far up or too far to the right, it makes the vein kinda skitter back “in” and I have a harder time getting it.

And, to prove that even after lots of blood draws you can still have screw ups, here is an example of things not going “text book perfect”. I pulled blood for 11 samples and had 2 “uh-ohs”… First, for whatever reason, I had a hard time getting the vein on June Bug, so she got several pokes before I got my sample (she also got several cookies to make up for it)…

Then, on Tricks, I hit the vein right, started my blood draw, and in the middle, accidently pushed the needle a lil deeper and through the vein, hence the lil pocket in the syringe with no blood. If ya do this, just slide the needle out, push air out of syringe, and then try again…Do not EVER, EVER put air in the vein. I can not stress enough how important that is.
As soon as I get my blood in the syringe, I put it in the labeled tube. This makes sure it’s in there before it starts to clot and prevents me from getting various syringes confused and not getting the right blood into the correct tube.
The tube has a vacuum in it, and once ya poke the needle in, it sucks the blood out all by itself.
Don’t push on the plunger….Just let the tube do its thing. Only poke your tube once and don’t screw up that vacuum. Make sure tube top where you’ll be poking is clean. I wipe mine with alcohol before I start my blood draw.
                IMG_20140104_152809_933   IMG_20140104_152811_286
Like a vacuum, the tubes suck the blood in quite fast.
               IMG_20140104_152816_409   IMG_20140104_152817_974

Now we’ll get down to packaging, labs and shipping info:

First up, for CAE and Pregnancy testing, I use Biotracking every year. Super great folks and they are always awesome about answering any questions you might have if you just give them a call. For goats, they have 2 forms: One is CAE only, one is the BioPRYN test (pregnancy).

On the pregnancy form, you have the option of adding CAE in the “added test” column, but on the CAE only form, there is no option for adding other test. So make sure you print the proper form. Here is the CAE only submission form. You can find the BioPryn pregnacy + CAE form here

Once I get my tubes inside, I double check my submission form to ensure I have it all filled out properly and that the names on the tubes match the names and desired test I put on the forms.
Then I package them for shipping.

First, I wrap each tube in a paper towel. If the tube breaks, this provides something to absorb the blood.
Once each tube is wrapped up nice, I bundle them all together with a rubber band so they are snug and can’t roll or clank around in the box, then I wrap with a bit of bubble wrap.
I put my paper towel, rubber banded, bubble wrapped bundle inside a good zip lock bag (haha, say that lil bit 5 times fast!).

This prevents any leaks just in case my samples get damaged… All this snug, leak proof packaging also prevents the folks at the post office from staring in horror at a bloody box straight out of an old time scary movie.

Lord knows I don’t want anyone thinking I’m shipping bloody body parts, mob threat style, to some poor soul in a lab…
Since I draw my blood on weekends, I place this tidy, compact lil blood bundle in my fridge and ship out first thing Monday morning.

When it’s time to ship, I place my submission form, along with a check for the proper amount inside a separate zip lock bag, once again, to protect the paper from potential bloody accidents. Then I put my samples in, pack in a bunch of paper around it, then put my zip lock baggy with forms & payment on top and seal the box up.


Most think you have to use pricey over night shipping for your samples which jacks the total cost of testing way up. I don’t. I simply pack in the smallest Priority/Flat Rate Priority box I can fit it in and send it. Rarely ever pay more than $7 for sample shipping.

Now, you’re supposed to write “Exempt Animal Specimen” on the outside of the box… Despite this truly being an exempt animal specimen, I’ve had a few postal employees raise an eyebrow over it… So I do write it, small, in ink, on a random place on the box, and I don’t tell them what I’m sending. It’s not their business anyways.

Since I’m fairly new to breeding Nubians, I wanted to have them tested for the genetic disorder G6S. For this test I had to pull blood to send to TVMDL as at this time, they are the only ones who offer G6S testing. Click here for pricing & info on G6S testing through TVMDL. 

I found their website to be confusing, so I had to get a lil help on this one as I had never done it before. For this test, I collected my samples in the required purple top tubes. I do not have a credit account with this lab, so *THIS FORM* is what I printed out. This is a very generic form that can be used for several test.

   IMG_20140105_220514_440    IMG_20140105_155448_245

For G6S testing, fill out your info on top.
Circle: Caprine under the “Animal ID’s”
In the “Breed” box, write “Nubian”
In “Test Requested” write G6S and I added “(2 samples)”
In the “Specimens Submitted” I wrote what I wrote on the tubes which was #1 Rocco. #2 Rosie. Just leave the “Clinical history” and specifics like gender (in the case of both genders being sent), age and weight blank.

I did not use, fill out, or send the second page of this form. If you’re in Texas, the cost per sample is $36 plus one, $6.00 accession fee. If you are not in Texas, cost is $42 per sample and a $7.50 accession fee. You only pay one accession fee per shipment, not one on each sample submitted.
Now, I’ll touch a bit on WHY I go through all this trouble to pull blood and run these test… I raise goats because I enjoy them. They make me happy and keep me busy when life plays unfair… I love the fresh raw milk, the occasional buck kid for the freezer and I love the challenge of trying to breed a better animal with each generation. Sometimes I get it right and the next generation is an improvement on the one before it… and sometimes I get it wrong and have to go back to the drawing board, but each time I breed, I make the choice to bring a life into the world and I am responsible for that life. When anyone makes that choice, I truly feel that they should do everything in their power to ensure they are producing a healthy animal free from disease or known genetic defect.

So…. I’ll start with the WHY for the G6S. Originally, I had no intentions of breeding Nubians… But my daughter’s “ONE pet” turned into me buying another doe, then a buck, and keeping a doe kid… So, we have Nubians now. Nubians with their lovely long ears and roman noses sadly have the misfortune of a sneaky lil genetic defect called G6S which is Glucosamine-6-Sulfatase Deficiency. Thankfully, this problem is a simple recessive gene and can easily be bred out in just a few generations. Since it is a recessive gene, animals with only one copy of the gene can appear perfectly normal.

When it comes to G6S, you’ll hear 3 terms:

Affected – This is the heartbreaker. An Affected animal has 2 copies of the defective gene and has symptoms.. Affected animals tend to be smaller, are prone to heart, reproductive and immune system problems… They often show a lack of muscling and sadly they usually die by age 4, if not much sooner.
Carrier – Thankfully this animal will live a normal, healthy life. Carriers have one copy of the normal gene, one copy of the defective gene and no symptoms. The downside to having a carrier is that, as the term implies, they carry the G6S mutation and can pass it on to their offspring.
Normal – Here is the magic word you want to hear in regards to G6S. A Normal animal has two copies of the normal gene and when bred to another normal animal, will only produce normal animals.

Since I did not want it on my head that I produced G6S affected animals who are essentially sentenced to death, nor did I wish to produce carriers who just make G6S more wide spread, I chose to test. I bought a Nubian who is G6S normal by parentage, but Rocco & Rosie both had carriers behind them, so I had to test them. Thankfully, both Rocco & Rosie came back as NORMAL, which means all of my Nubians are G6S Normal by testing or parentage, and all kids I produce from these animals will also be Normal.

That is FANTASTIC news for me… Hence the smiley face I added to my test results pictured below.
Testing is pricey, but worth it… Given the expense of the test, I choose to purchase only normal animals so I won’t be footing the bill for this one again. For more detailed info I recommend “A Genetic Defect and its Management” By Dagny Vidinish . For a tidy, easy to understand summary, check out this page by Jekuthiel Nubians

Goats can be plagued with a variety of woes…. One that is quite common is CAE which is short for Caprine Arthritic Encephalitis. CAE is a viral infection in goats.

You’ll hear folks talk about hard, unproductive udders in does, or the swollen, painful knees that are very typical in symptomatic animals…. You’ll also hear stories (which are true) of CAE positive animals who live their entire lives comfortably without symptoms. Because of this, there are some out there who would write CAE off as “no big deal”…. But, if you’ve ever witnessed an infected baby die from an encephalitic seizure, seen a animal with over sized, painful knees hobble about pathetically, or seen a positive animal succumb to fatal pneumonia which is pretty common in CAE positive animals, you couldn’t possibly write it off as “no big deal”. Yes, many, if not a vast majority of infected animals will be just fine….. But, if you, as a producer, could prevent just ONE animal from suffering from the above woes, shouldn’t you?

There is no cure for CAE at this time. Thankfully though, testing has improved vastly over the years and the spread of CAE can be stopped with a bit of work. Testing, as outline above, is so easy, cheap and anyone can do it (and…. I just showed you HOW, so ya don’t have an excuse not to *wink, wink*).

I test my animals yearly, not because I am worried about positive animals, but because I feel I should do my part to set a good example… I will NEVER purchase an animal without a current, negative test, so I also do not expect anyone else to purchase animals from me without having negative, current test, from an accredited lab, in hand. I also retest all new purchases myself while they are in quarantine and recommend that others have a full round of test run on new purchases as well. 
Noodleville Farms 2014 Negative CAE Results

Depending on your herd and situation, one may want to consider testing for other goaty woes such as CL, Brucellosis, & Johnes… I have tested for CL, CAE & Johnes through WADDL in the past and have found them to be a reliable lab, so if you’re interested in more than just CAE/Pregnancy, I recommend contacting them. As a side note, if you’re wanting pregnancy test done, as well as a full smorgasbord of health testing, call Biotracking and talk to them about it…. They are more than happy to run pregnancy on your sample, then piggy back them on over to WADDL for the other test that their lab does not offer…. Pretty darn nifty eh? 

Anywho, this blog post is turning into quite the long worded fiasco, so I’ll try to wrap it up… Here’s a handy video on another method of drawing blood on goats… I personally find the syringe method easier, but thought I’d share this as another option.

One final thought from me…… Goats are complex and sometimes frustrating critters. They require lots of time, dedication and work….. Not to mention they have a knack for consuming fundage at an alarming rate at times.

Don’t let anyone convince you that disease testing is not important.

It IS important!

No, it’s not the end of the world if you have a positive animal… These things can be worked around and dealt with, but if you don’t test, you don’t know if you have anything to deal with, and knowledge my friends, is power. Knowing can help you make better decisions for future generations on your farm. The eradication of these goaty woes, one lil farm at a time, saves not only money in the long run, but quite a bit of potential heartbreak as well.

Noodleville kids are due in 2 weeks, stay tuned for baby pics galore….. When I’m not on blogger you can catch updates and pictures on my new Facebook farm page by clicking here: Noodleville Farms on Facebook - Please take a sec to stop on by, toss a “Like” my way & check out the albums of the Noodleville crew…. Lots of new pictures that I haven’t had the chance to add here yet… 
Happy Kidding Y’all!!!

Blog Summary Links

Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab:

Printable General Accession Form (WADDL)

List of goat/sheep test available at WADDL

Testing Fees for WADDL health test

Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory:

Printable Accession Form - TVMDL

TVMDL Goat & Sheep Health Test. Testing Fees.


Printable Goat/Sheep Pregnancy Submission Form

Printable CAE/OPP Submission Form.

Testing Schedules/Test Fees/Lab Information


Blood Collection Tubes at Jeffers Livestock Supply

Blood Collection Tubes at PBS Animal Health

Blood Collection Tubes at Valley Vet