Choosing a closed herd policy is a decision that can cause frustration and concern. How safe is safe? When talking about having closed herds, people need to understand why it's important and understand how some bugs and diseases are spread.
We've discussed some goat diseases before: CL, CAE, Johnes,&
Bangs. We call them the fatal four. Why? Because any one of
these would mean a culling for our goats, as there is no cure for any of these fatal four. We won't go into great detail here, but we will go over some basics on the transmission of these diseases.
CAE - Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis. This virus affects goats on many levels. Not just the arthritic signs of swollen knees, this virus actually affects the immune system leaving the goat's body incapable of fighting common ailments. Some have described this
disease as a goat version of the AIDS virus. CAE is commonly passed through the goat's colostrum, however, it can still be transmitted through infected blood. There have been no confirmed cases of CAE being transmitted to humans from goats.
With the compromised immune system they are open to any and all illnesses.
BANGS - Brucellosis. This bacterial infection can affect
both humans, goats, sheep, cattle, dogs, & pigs. Transmission is usually passed through drinking unpasteurized milk and
fecal or body fluids. Goats are usually infected by eating contaminated grass, feed, or water. Any animal infected with Bangs will remain a carrier of the disease and infect other
animals. The disease usually goes straight to the reproductive organs, the mammary glands, and the lymph nodes. First signs of Bangs infection in a herd is swollen joints, aborted fetuses, and inflammation of the bucks testicles. Bangs is a Reportable disease, meaning any cases of Brucellosis must be reported to the
proper Governmental entity.
JOHNES - is a disease that affect ruminants such as goats, cattle, elk, sheep, deer. Caused by a bacteria called Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, or MAP. Passed through infected fecal matter, it is usually spread from ingesting contaminated water, feed, or milk. MAP attacks the last part of the small intestine taking over the tissue. Once there, it prevents nutrients from being absorbed by the body. Because of this, the animals slowly
waste away, starving to death even as they eat. Diarrhea is another sign of this wasting disease. Johnes is usually brought into a herd by purchasing a healthy looking animal that has it.
Bio Security Steps
bio-security measures are needed aren't they?
The first step - TESTING. You need to plan on having a Testing Protocol. Why? Establishing which goats are infected or not is the only way you can know that any steps you take afterwards will be effective. Is testing expensive? Yes, for us it was, around $125 per goat. But we had a vet take the blood and send it to WADDL.
If you learn, or know how, to draw your own blood - the cost is very reasonable.
One thing to note, it's recommended to wait 30 days after
you get a goat before you test. Why? The theory behind this
is, a goat can be exposed to the disease the day you pick them up.
If nothing shows up by the end of 30 days, then there was nothing there to show up.
UPDATE: WADDL, Washington Animal Disease Diagnosis Laboratory is now recommending testing twice at 30 day intervals. They have a Biosecurity screening test that
covers the 'fatal four'.
Now if you do plan on testing - then what do you need to do to keep your other goats safe until you can test? Quarantine.
The second step - QUARANTINING. A secure place needs to be made available for all untested animals. The 'quarantine pen' needs to be a minimum of 20 feet away from other livestock. We use a 10 x 10 dog kennel for our quarantine pen. It allows us to move it to different locations - also reducing risk of exposure. We usually maintain a distance of 100 ft. from our goat paddock.
The third step - BIOSECURITY. Knowing how the diseases listed above are spread enables us to plan on prevention. Knowing that the gambit can be contacted through contaminated fecal, water, feed, blood, etc. Covers a lot, doesn't it? So what measures would you use to stop the chance of these nasties getting to your herd?
Simple steps - feeding the quarantined animals last. Using separate water and food containers. Not wearing the same
boots for your main herd that you wear around your quarantined goat. Wearing different clothes. Washing your hands, etc.
In other words, limiting any and all chance of a speck of fecal to
transfer from the quarantined animal to your closed herd until all testing is done. A lot of work? Yes, but well worth preventing our main herd from getting sick or even losing one animal to CAE, CL, or more.
Here's our routine. We go feed & water all our animals in our closed herd. Once all is well with our kiddies, we go in through our back door, change our boots, pull on a set of coveralls, grab separate food buckets and water buckets and out the front door to our quarantined goat. When done, we come in the front door - off with the coveralls and boots. Come in the house and wash all exposed skin, usually hands to our elbows. These steps are followed twice daily for a full 37 days. The 30 day quarantine time and the extra 7 days it normally takes to get the test results back.
We also have a complete vet exam of the new kiddies and have a fecal done at the same time. This has saved us from spreading coccidiosis in our herd as well. The quarantined animal stays in the pen until after all treatments, such as worming is done. Only then can our new addition finally be introduced to the rest of the herd.
The last step - CLOSED HERD. The last step is by far the most important, because if you don't have a closed herd then all the other steps are not going to be effective. Case in point....parasitic problems like coccidiosis can last in soil for a long time. Someone can walk through the goat barn at the Fair in August and months later tract it into your paddock infecting your goats. Our herd is closed, period. No one can go in the barn but us. If someone
wants to see kids before purchasing - disposable coveralls & heavy boot covers are provided. People are also required to wash up thoroughly before going out. Strict? Yes. But by using our biosecurity methods, we don't have to retest our herd. We also prevent our goats from getting diseases that would require us
culling them. Any kids born on our property are clean. PERIOD.
So, how safe is safe? As safe as you make it.