Updated: Jan 21
Silent unknown killers are really an issue when buying goats. Prevention by way of biosecurity protocols to prevent diseases from ever entering the farm are the key for the health and safety of acquired new animals as well as other animals on the farm.
Biosecurity issues that need to be addressed are two fold - Those two issues are:
1. Allowing people onto their property or into their barns.
2. Your Farm Management and Practices.
Both issues directly affect the lives of our animals and the health, safety and security of the entire herd. If a farm does not have strict biosecurity practices and protocols in place to protect their animals health and well being, red flags & bells should be going off!
Knowledge and the implementation of preventative measures and protocols is key when you are looking at the health, safety and long term survival of the animals. When disease is introduced onto a farm, it's not only the animals health that could be at risk, it is the lives of the animals that are at risk - especially if it is a fatal disease that has no cure such as Johnes.
Buying animals from tested, healthy stock from the start is extremely important. Making certain that vaccinations that are necessary for their health, the management of nutrition, mineral supplementation, accomodations in dry, safe, clean housing, pasture management, grooming practices and strict adherence to biosecurity protocols for visiting should be at the top of any person's list of breeders they are looking to purchase an animal from.
If no biosecurity measures are taken to protect the animals, those animals could have been exposed to any number of diseases of which like Johnes, would be a worst-case scenario - there is no cure and the animal suffers a horrible and unavoidable demise. In case of Johnes, euthanasia would be the result - it is a devastating disease in which to avoid. Buying from yearly tested stock should be a requirement of any buyer.
In the July/August 2019 issue of Goat Journal Magazine, there was a good article written on the need for biosecurity that was entitled The Mycobacterium Complex. This article explained how commingling of animals, can cause the transfer of zoonotic diseases that can jump between species, including to humans.
The author, Rebecca Sanderson, referenced a goat owner, Stacy, that had nine goats, three sheep, a cow, a horse, and chickens that were housed in close proximity to her goats. Johne's was suspected in a sick goat which would have meant Stacy's animals all would have had to have been euthanized as there is no cure for Johne's.
Stacy had an ELISA test which had brought a false-positive reading which after receiving that result, Stacy retested using the fecal matter based test which found her chickens had been exposed to avian tuberculosis.
Stacy's goat had picked up the Mycobacterium avium bacteria which it's body was developing antibodies to fight which caused the false-positive test result. Stacy now has to change the animals housing as part of the recommended protocols for biosecurity - animals should not be housed together to eliminate the possibility of disease transfer. Yearly blood testing for Johne's was added to Stacy's biosecurity protocol.
There are many ways to handle biosecurity whether it be from returning from the feed store and changing boots, visiting a goat show and changing shoes before visiting the barn, to biosecurity measures when potential buyer's visit the farm. Every scenario requires biosecurity measures be taken to ensure the safety and health of a farmer's goats and other livestock.
Requiring visitors to wear boot covers, sanitising footwear, keeping their children under control, not allowing the petting or feeding of animals, parking in specified areas, viewing sale animals in areas away from the barn, hand sanitising, wearing coveralls, are all biosecurity measures that can help ensure the safety of animals on the farm. Depending on the situation, any combination of protocols may be required.
While looking to acquire new goats this next spring, searching for farms that have yearly testing of their herds, biosecurity measures in place for farm visits, both will pay dividends for buyer's!