There is always the risk of introducing unwanted diseases on-farm whenever new animals enter a herd. Now, a new movement and introduction checklist for goats can help farmers reduce the risk of transmitting diseases to their herds, which can both save costs and boost profitability. It includes advice on sourcing and moving animals, as well as how to introduce them to your existing herd with minimal risk.
“Farmers are focused on being profitable, competitive and meeting the needs of our markets and customers. An important part of that is keeping farms and livestock free of disease,” says Jennifer Bullock, Project Manager with the Ontario Livestock Alliance, which represents Ontario goat, rabbit and veal farmers.
The checklist is part of a new, multi-phase project partnership between Ontario Goat, Ontario Cattlemen’s Association, Ontario Veal Association, Ontario Rabbit, and Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency to identify, quantify and address biosecurity gaps and build the livestock industry’s emergency preparedness capabilities.
Aileen Dekkers and her husband Jake milk 330 does on their farm near Caledonia. Former dairy farmers, they started shipping goat milk in the spring of 2006 and are hoping to expand their herd as the industry grows. They’ve decided to take the necessary steps to make their herd free of the Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE) virus, so proper biosecurity, including good record-keeping and managing visitors, plays a key role on their farm.
“We keep records of all of our animals and we do require all visitors to the farm to wear disposable plastic boot covers,” says Aileen. “We also prefer for them not to wear clothing they’ve worn on another farm premise, and we don’t allow anyone who’s come from a sales barn to enter our barns.”
The Dekkers are raising their own replacement stock as they aim to rid their herd of CAE. For producers who do bring new animals into a herd, it’s important to avoid commingling animals during transport or sale if possible and to limit the introduction of new replacement stock and bucks to those where you know their disease status. Treating and vaccinating goats of unknown health status provides added protection, as does observing new animals and their response to the new farm site closely and keeping them away from your existing herd when they first arrive.
If a producer has sick animals, they should be isolated from the healthy ones and enhanced biosecurity between sick pens and/or quarantine areas and the rest of the herd should be implemented. That means cleaning and sanitizing equipment that is used in both sick and healthy areas of the barn – or even keeping separate equipment in each area to avoid contamination – and making sure work is done in healthy areas first before entering sick pens.
Also, a producer should ensure that healthy and sick goats do not eat or drink from the same feed or water sources, and consider contamination risks when moving healthy and sick animals through common alleyways in the barn.
For producers buying bred animals, the offspring should be raised in an area separate from other kids. Separating newborns from does immediately following birth avoids transfer of pathogens from mother to offspring, a process that can be a lot of work but is believed to be an important step in preventing disease transmission.
“It takes a lot of time to hand feed all the newborn kids with heat-treated colostrum from CAE-negative does, especially when you have a large group of does kidding out at once,” admits Dekkers, but adds that for them, it is worth the extra work and expense to become free of the disease. “We know the costs and we know the advantages of being CAE-free, and we always advise others who are interested in starting up in goats to make sure they start with CAE-negative animals.”
The movement and isolation checklist for goats was developed in conjunction with a livestock purchaser’s guide for the goat industry. For more information on reducing disease transmission risks or to access these resources, please contact the Ontario Livestock Alliance at (519) 824-2942 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Funding for this project was provided in part through Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of several Growing Forward programs in Ontario.
Goat movement and introduction tips
- Limit the introduction of new replacement stock and bucks to those where you know their disease status.
- Treat and vaccinate goats of unknown health status when they arrive.
- Observe new animals and their response to the new farm site closely and keep them away from your existing herd when they first arrive.
- Separate newborns from does immediately following birth to avoid transfer of pathogens from mother to offspring. When purchasing bred animals, raise the offspring in an area separate from other kids.
- Isolate sick animals and avoid direct contact between them. Implement enhanced biosecurity between sick pens and/or quarantine areas and the rest of your herd.
Written by Lilian Schaer for Ontario Goat.