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Anatomy and physiology of the goatAugust 2017, Primefact 1594,Animal Biosecurity and Welfare, NSW DPIGoat owners need to understand the basicstructure and functioning of goats if they are tomaintain the health and increase the productivityof their herds.This brief outline of the goat’s anatomy andphysiology is a starting point for those who wantto begin keeping goats, and for establishedproducers who would like to fine-tune theirknowledge.Anatomy is the branch of biological science thatdeals with the form and structure of animals.Physiology is the branch that deals with thefunctions of the body.AnatomyPoints of a goatThe points of an animal are the salient featuresthat an owner or prospective buyer examines inorder to assess its health or its potential asbreeding stock.Figure 1 The points of a female goatLine drawing by Nagui HeneinThe skeleton is made up of the vertebral column,ribs and skull; the limbs; and the joints.The vertebral column consists of a series ofirregularly shaped bones, some fixed and somemovable. There are 7 neck (cervical) vertebrae,13 chest (thoracic) vertebrae, 6 or 7 lumbarvertebrae, 4 pelvic (sacral) vertebrae andbetween 4 and 8 tail (coccygeal) vertebrae.The ribs are elongated, curved bones that formthe ribcage, which is the skeleton of the thoraciccavity (chest). There are 13 pairs of ribs attachedto each side of the thoracic vertebrae. Most ofthem are fixed—that is, they are joined to thesternum (breastbone) at the front of the chest—but the last two pairs are not attached at the frontand are called floating ribs.The skull includes all the bones of the head. Itconsists of a number of flat bones that formimmovable joints, most of which disappear withage; and a lower jawbone (mandible), whichforms movable joints with the other parts of theskull.The limbs include forelegs (thoracic limbs) andhind legs (pelvic limbs). The forelegs consist ofshoulder, forearm and a lower limb made up ofcarpus, metacarpus and phalanges. The hindlegs consist of pelvic girdle, thigh, and a lowerlimb made up of tarsus, metatarsus andphalanges.

Anatomy and physiology of the goatSkeletonTeeth. Goats have three groups of teeth:Figure 2 The skeleton of a goat four pairs of incisors on the lower jaw only,which bite on to a ‘dental pad’ on the upperjaw; three premolars on each side of the upperand lower jaws; three molars on each side of the upper andlower jaws.The teeth usually erupt at about the times shownbelow.TemporaryLine drawing by Nagui HeneinThe joints are where two or more bones ofcartilages meet. There are two main kinds ofjoints.Fixed or immovable joints have no joint cavityand are united by fibrous tissue or cartilage.Many of these are temporary joints whichbecome fixed as calcium accumulates in theflexible tissues and turns to bone (calcifies) withage. Examples are the joints in the skull, thejoints of ribs to vertebrae, and the pelvic andmandibular symphyses (midline joints).stPermanentFirst incisors1 weekSecondincisors2week18-21 monthsThird incisors3 weekrd22-24 monthsFourth incisors 4 weekth27-32 monthsPremolars18-24 monthsnd2-6 weeks13-15 monthsMovable joints have a joint cavity surrounded bya joint capsule. There are two opposing bonesurfaces, which have smooth surfaces of verydense bone.First molars3-5 monthsSecond molars9-12 monthsMovable joints have cartilages between thebones to reduce friction and absorb concussion.The inner lining of the joint capsule is thesynovial layer, which produces synovial fluid(‘joint fluid’). Examples include joints of the limbs,such as the shoulder and the hip, and the jointbetween the skull and the vertebral column.Third molars18-24 monthsFigure 3 Cross-section of a movable jointA goat’s age can be estimated by examining thepermanent teeth that have erupted (see AgfactA7.2.2 How to tell the age of goats).Stomach. The stomach of a goat is very largeand consists of four parts: the rumen, thereticulum, the omasum and the abomasum.The rumen occupies almost all of the left half ofthe abdominal cavity. It is divided internally intocompartments by pillars (large folds of the wall)and lined with many papillae (small projections oftissue). The rumen wall has a layer of muscle.The reticulum is the foremost part of thestomach. It lies beneath ribs 6–8, just behind thediaphragm and liver. Its lining is arranged in amesh-like ‘honeycomb’ pattern.Line drawing by Nagui HeneinThere are also joints with limited movement andrigid supporting tissues; for example, the jointsbetween the vertebrae in the spinal column.Digestive system2The omasum is the smallest part of the stomach.It is oval in shape and sits on the right side of theabdominal cavity. Its interior is divided by largelongitudinal folds of tissue, like pages in a book.The abomasum is about twice the size of thereticulum, but elongated in shape. It lies on theright side of the abdominal cavity. The lower endof the abomasum is constricted by the pyloricNSW Department of Primary Industries, September 2017

Anatomy and physiology of the goatsphincter, a strong muscular valve whichseparates it from the duodenum.Intestines. The small intestine is about 25mlong, with an average diameter of 25mm. Thefirst 60cm forms the duodenum, which is next tothe pancreas.The small intestine lies at the back of the rightside of the abdominal cavity. It is made up of thejejunum and the ileum.The caecum is a blind sac which marks thejunction between the small intestine (ileum) andthe start of the large intestine. It is about 200mmlong and 50mm in diameter.The colon, or large intestine, is about 5m long. Atits beginning it is the same diameter as thecaecum, gradually tapering to about the same asthe small intestine, when it becomes the rectum.Figure 4 The stomachs and intestinal tract of agoathas two horns extending from it. The lining of theuterus is dark pink because it is covered with tinyblood vessels that are there to provide nutrientsfor the growing embryo. The caruncles—smallraised areas on the uterine wall—are the pointsof attachment for the placenta.The two uterine horns are linked by a thin, weblike ligament until they curve downward andbackward, when they separate and taper off intothe fallopian tubes. These lead to the ovaries, towhich they are attached by funnel-shapedstructures called infundibula.The infundibula and the fallopian tubes are linedwith tiny, hair-like projections called cilia, whichwave in unison to create currents in the flow ofmucus. The sperm find the egg by swimmingdirectly against this current.Figure 5 Schematic diagram showing the anatomyof the doe’s reproductive tractLine drawing by Nagui HeneinLine drawing by Nagui HeneinReproductive system—femaleThe external part of the female genitalia is calledthe vulva. It seals the opening of the reproductivesystem to protect against contamination and toprevent the sensitive internal tissues from dryingout. It is pinkish grey in colour.The vulva leads to the vagina, which is a tubularstructure with a smooth, moist, glistening lining.The lining is tough and covered with mucus towithstand possible injury and bacterialcontamination resulting from natural service.The cervix is a series of muscular ridges forminga protective block between the uterus (and thedeveloping foetus) and the exterior. To keep outharmful bacteria, foreign debris and undesirablefluids there is a cervical plug of mucus—a thick,tacky secretion from the mucus glands in thelining of the cervix. This plug seals the cervixduring pregnancy and when the doe is not onheat.The uterus is often called the womb. When thedoe is not pregnant, the uterus is 2–3 cm long. It3Figure 6 Schematic diagram showing theapproximate positions of the doe’s reproductiveorgansLine drawing by Nagui HeneinReproductive system—maleThe scrotum is the sac of skin which contains thetwo testicles (testes). The testes are ovoid inshape. They grow to about 10cm long andusually weigh 250–300 grams.The epididymis runs from the top of the testicledown the side to the bottom (or tail), thenupwards again through the inguinal canal tobecome the vas deferens. The epididymis andthe vas deferens transport semen.NSW Department of Primary Industries, September 2017

Anatomy and physiology of the goatThe penis has a sigmoid (S-shaped) flexurewhich allows it to lengthen during mating. Theurethra extends (as the urethral process) 2–3 cmbeyond the end of the penis.The accessory sex organs—the seminal vesicles,the prostate gland and the ampullae—areattached to the vas deferens and lie next to thebladder.Figure 7 Anatomy of the buck’s reproductive tractFeetThe wall of the hoof is horn tissue produced bythe horn bud cells around the coronary band (thejunction of the skin and the wall of the hoof). Thehorn grows downward as the wall wears awayduring walking. The weight of the goat falls on thewall of the hoof.Figure 9 Cross-section of the lower leg and foot ofa goatLine drawing by Nagui HeneinSkinThe follicles are the fibre-bearing structures ofthe skin. They are formed in the foetus duringpregnancy.Line drawing by Nagui HeneinFigure 10 Groung surface view of a goat’s footThe primary follicles have hair fibres at birth, andthe secondary follicles start to produce fibreduring the first few months of the goat’s life.The primary follicles secrete sweat from thesudoriferous glands and wax from the sebaceousglands.The S/P ratio is the ratio of secondary follicles toprimary follicles. Each primary follicle has anassociated group of secondary follicles. Thedensity of the follicles is the number of follicles(primary and secondary) per square millimetre ofskin. Density indicates the potential fleeceproduction.Figure 8 Section through goat skin showing aprimary and secondary follicleLine drawing by Nagui HeneinEmbryologyThe zygote is a fertilised egg (ovum). The morulais a 16 or 32 cell structure formed by the divisionand redivision of the zygote. The bastocyst is astructure with a fluid-filled cavity (blastocoele)surrounded by the cells formed into a layer. Theinner cell mass is the layer of cells pushed to theside wall by the fluid; this is the mound of cellsthat will form the embryo.Line drawing by Nagui Henein4NSW Department of Primary Industries, September 2017

Anatomy and physiology of the goatFigure 11 The stages of development of a fertilisedeggDizygous (non-identical) twins form from thefertilisation of two ovulations in the same oestruscycle; monozygous twins result from thefertilisation of a single ovum and are geneticallyidentical.UdderThe goat’s udder is in the inguinal region (thegroin). It has two glands, one on either side of themidline. Each gland has a single teat and eachteat has a single orifice (opening). The glands areseparate units.Line drawing by Nagui HeneinThe cells differentiate to form the specific organsin layers of primitive cells: The ectoderm (outer layer), from whcih formthe nervous system (including the brain),sense organs, skin, hooves, hair andmammary glands; The mesoderm (middle layer), from whichform the circulatory system (inclduing theheart), skeleton, muscles, kidneys and thereproductive tract; the endoderm (inner layer), from which formthe digestive system, liver and lungs.The amnion and the allantochorion aremembranes around the outside of the embryo.The amnion contains fluids in which the embryois suspended. The allantois-a sac whichaccumulates waste products in fluid-combineswith the chorion (the outer layer of membrane) toform the allantochorion. The allantochorionattaches to the lining of the uterus to form theplacenta.The cotyledons are the points of attachment ofthe placenta to the uterine wall. They include thecaruncles, which are extensions of the uterinewall.The internal divisions of the glands arerepresented in figure 13. The milk-producing cellsare grouped into lobes, and within these arelobules. These are further divided into alveoli,which are tiny sac-like structures. They have aninternal cavity called a lumen, and are lined bymilk-secreting epithelial cells. Each alveolus issurrounded by muscle cells which contract during‘milk letdown’.Figure 13 Section through the udder of a doeLine drawing by Nagui HeneinPhysiologyLiver functions To excrete bile, which passes into the gallbladder and thence into the small intestine toaid digestion. To store glycogen, the source of energy.After differentiation of the tissues and organs, theembryo becomes known as a foetus. Thecirculatory system develops rapidly, and by thethird week an embryonic heartbeat is detectable. To store minerals such as copper and iron. To break down aged red blood cells. To break down toxic substances.Figure 12 A foetus taking form To break down waste products from bodymetabolism.Kidney functions To filter out and excrete waste and excessmaterials from the bloodstream. To maintain the fluid status of the body byremoving or retaining fluid, and to maintainthe correct pH level and chemical balance.Line drawing by Nagui Henein5NSW Department of Primary Industries, September 2017

Anatomy and physiology of the goatReproductionGoats mature sexually at 5–8 months of age.Reproduction depends on successful depositionof the buck’s semen in the vagina of the doe atthe correct time in her oestrus cycle.Every 18–25 days a fluid-filled follicle containingoestrogen develops in the ovary. The oestrogenis carried throughout the body by thebloodstream. It brings the doe on heat byaffecting certain tissues that lining the cervix,which produce a clear stringy mucus and anattractive (to the buck) odour. Also, oestrogenstimulates in the brain of the doe a desire toaccept the buck. Heat usually lasts for 24–36hours.However, if fertilisation does not take place theuterine wall secretes prostaglandin, a substancewhich causes the corpus luteum to regress. Thisoccurs between day 16 and day 18, thuscompleting a full cycle. A new follicle begins todevelop and produce oestrogen over these daysto bring the doe into heat again at about daytwenty. (See Agfact A7.4.1, Goat reproductio