October 8, 2008

Prevention is better than cure. Take every step possible to ensure you don’t introduce diseases to your goat herd. Observe high standards of husbandry and hygiene to maintain good health and productivity of your herd.
Many goat herds are afflicted with diseases that are costly to control and undermine the profitability of the herd. Examples include foot rot, internal parasites (particularly those resistant to many commonly used drenches) and viruses. In many cases these diseases are brought in with purchased goats. When purchasing goats to upgrade the herd, to introduce new genetic material, or just to increase numbers, follow these steps to help prevent the entry or spread of disease.

Step 1. Before Purchase – Goats that look (and can look) perfectly healthy can still be carrying unwanted infections or parasites. Try your best to check the complete history of the goats you intend to buy and the herd from which they originate. Information like this can also be verified from the local agricultural departments who usually keep tabs on farmers and their herds. You need to know:

  • Any previous episodes of illness in the herd?
  • Details of previous illnesses in the individual goats you intend to buy.
  • The history of drench usage in the herd. Ask what products have been used, how often, and what the dose rates were?
  • The vaccination status of the goats. Ask whether they are due for a booster ?
  • The precise reasons the goats are being sold .
  • Results (if any) from any veterinary examinations or blood tests.
  • What diseases are common or likely to affect goats in your area and the area from which the goats originate.

Don’t Buy Someone’s Discarded Problems.

Step 2. At Purchase – thorough examination. Thoroughly examine the goats you intend to buy. Pick up and inspect closely every foot of every goat you are buying. With larger herds, check a representative group at least. Look for overgrown horn tissue which may need trimming, inflamed skin around the hoof or between the toes, and any tender areas in the lower legs.

  • Check the condition of the coat. It should be shiny and smooth.
  • Closely examine the skin for general health and for any marks or lumps. In particular, check for lumps under the skin of the jaw (they could be abscesses in the lymph glands – ‘cheesy gland’), in front of the shoulder and in the flank.
  • Check to see that the gums and the conjunctiva of the eyes are moist and pink.
  • Check for evidence of recent scours.
  • Check teeth to determine the age. With older animals, check the state of the teeth as a guide to general condition.
  • In does that have kidded, check the udder for any hard lumps or other indications of chronic mastitis. This is especially important in dairy goats.
  • Palpate the testicles of bucks to ensure that there are in fact two. They must be symmetrical and firm, and have no soft spots or lumps.
  • Inspect goats’ feet thoroughly to detect signs of foot rot.

Step 3. After purchase – on-farm quarantine. Be sure to keep all new goats in isolation for about 4 to 6 weeks after purchase. Even though the foregoing checks may have been done thoroughly, a period of on-farm isolation is a further safety measure.

  • Keep all introduced goats in a paddock on their own – the ‘admission area’. This area should be separated by at least two metres, or by a double fence line, from other paddocks with goats.
  • Administer any necessary vaccines or drenches immediately after unloading the new stock.
  • Carry out preventive measures against coccidiosis as soon as goats enter your property.
  • Regularly observe goats for the first 4 to 6 weeks after purchase to see that they are settling in, feeding well, and showing no signs of illness. After this time, you will have a better idea of their general health.
  • While newly purchased goats are still in the admission area, i suggest you consult your veterinarian to arrange for any examination and testing you might want done.
  • Clean the admission area after each batch. Disinfect the sheds and the feed and water troughs in preparation for further new arrivals/purchases.

There is a risk of introducing disease when visitors enter the property, unless you take special precautions to ensure that footwear and other clothing, especially that of other goat owners, veterinarians and farm advisers, is clean. When moving backward and forward between the admission area and the rest of the farm yourself, take similar precautions so as not to jeopardise your on-farm quarantine measures. As well as following these three steps when purchasing new stock, you will need to observe good management practices (commonsense routine procedures) to safeguard the health of your herd at all times.


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