There are many reasons to draw blood on goats, including disease testing for CAE, CL, and Johnes disease and pregnancy testing to find out if your does are pregnant. When working with a veterinarian on a particular case, they may request a blood sample as well. Usually in that case the vet would want to examine the animal and would draw blood themselves, but if the animal has been previously examined and the vet wants more testing they may give you the option of drawing the blood yourself and taking it in rather than loading up the goat for a blood draw.
Drawing blood on goats is not hard to do. I know it can be a little intimidating at first — I was nervous the first time I did it, too — but practice makes (almost) perfect!
No one is completely perfect, so occasionally there may be times when you don’t get the vein on the first try or blow a vein. Don’t be discouraged if this happens — it happens even to professionals, including (human) doctors, nurses, and veterinarians. You will get better the more you do it, just like with anything else.
Here’s How to Draw Blood On Goats:
First, some tips:
Have someone else hold the goat for you. Although the actual blood draw doesn’t bother them much at all — it’s just a prick just like anything involving a needle — they don’t like the restraint and will be squirmy. If they aren’t being restrained securely it will make it much harder (if not impossible) for you to find the vein and increase the chances of you blowing the vein by piercing through both sides. It helps to back the goat up to a wall or fence so they can’t back away from you.
Shave the neck first. Shaving the goat’s neck over the general area of the vein allows you to see what you’re doing, identify the vein, and clean the skin before piercing it with the needle.
Label your blood tubes before starting. Unless you’re just doing one goat, you need to label the blood tubes first so that you don’t get them mixed up and get incorrect results.
Save overweight goats for last. The more fat that a goat has, the harder it is to see the vein. If you have a choice, don’t try drawing blood for the first time on an overweight goat. Practice on the ones with thinner necks and veins that really pop out well first to get a feel for it.
Where to find supplies:
There are a few essentials you need to gather first before drawing blood.
Syringes and Needles
I buy my sterile syringes and needles in boxes of 100 from Jeffers. I’ve tried a few different syringe/needle combinations and settled on 3 ml syringes with 1″ long needles (20 gauge – an 18 gauge would work as well). 100 may seem like a lot, but with livestock you go through them much faster than you may think. If you’re only doing a couple of goats, though, you can pick these up at most farm stores like Tractor Supply.
These have worked best for me. I found that the double-sided needles that come with red top tubes were messy, because the blood starts to pour through the needle before the tube is inserted. I also just generally found them to be a little unwieldy and more awkward for me to work with.
Peroxide or Rubbing Alcohol
Pick these up at any grocery or pharmacy. This is used to clean the goat’s skin prior to drawing the blood.
Good Quality Clippers
I’ve gone through so many dinky, cheap little battery powered clippers trying to save a buck. Skip the hassle and just get a good quality clipper up front with a number 10 blade. The cheap ones do not last and they also struggle to clip through the thick cashmere of a goat’s winter coat. Plus, you’ll use these clippers for other tasks as well like pre-kidding clips or show clips, so you’re not just buying them for one purpose.
After much trial and error, I’ve been pleased with my Wahl Stable Pro Plus. They’re not fancy, but they do the job. You can find good clippers in most farm stores as well, like Tractor Supply, and in horse supply stores as well.
Red Top Tubes
You can find red top tubes in a few different places online, but I purchase mine directly from Biotracking. They come with double sided collection needles as well, and you can use those if you like, but like I said above I just prefer the syringe and needle.
Now a step-by-step video guide:
It’s much easier to show than tell when it comes to drawing blood on goats, so I made a short how-to video demonstrating how to quickly and easily draw blood on goats. Watch it below or click through to YouTube HERE.
Once you’ve drawn the blood, where do you send it?
If you’re drawing for pregnancy testing or Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) testing only, you can send your blood to Biotracking. They have different labs all over the place so prices may vary a bit, but the particular Biotracking lab I send my tests to runs $6.50 for each pregnancy test and $5.00 for each CAE test.
If you want to test for Johnes and/or Caseous Lymphadentitis (CL) as well, blood can be submitted to Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (WADDL). WADDL charges a flat $10 access fee for all samples sent in addition to the cost of the actual tests. Prices vary depending on if you are in the state of Washington; in-states tests are cheaper. For out of state testers like me, pregnancy tests are $6.75, CAE is $6.75, Johne’s is $6.75, and CL is $10.50. They also offer a Caprine Biosecurity Screen which is CAE, Johnes, and CL for $22.50.
Each place has its own accession form, schedule for testing, and guidelines for sending samples. The general process, though, is as follows:
- Label and number each blood tube. Refrigerate them overnight if you’re taking the samples the day before mailing.
- Fill out the paperwork, which will include making a list of names and numbers that corresponds to what is on your tubes.
- Pack the blood samples well. The blood tubes should be held together by a rubber band, wrapped in enough absorbent material like paper towels to absorb all the blood if it leaks, and then sealed in a plastic bag. Depending on the type of tests being done and the time of year, you may need to pack an ice pack with the blood samples. The lab you are shipping to can advise you of their guidelines. You should place more absorbent and cushioning material in the box the prevent them from breaking. Don’t ship in an envelope! You should also mark the bag as a biohazard on the inside of the box. Follow the specific shipping instructions of your lab.
- Ship them off to arrive by the day the tests will be run. I always ship my samples on Monday so that they don’t spend time hanging out in the post office over the weekend. Depending on the time of year and the test being run, you may need to overnight the samples. Check with the lab for their recommendations. Also each lab has a schedule available on their website or by calling that shows which day of the week which tests are run and when the results are reported.
And that’s it! All that’s left to do is wait impatiently.