By Dr. Beth Johnson, DVM
We all want to feel safe and secure in everything we do especially since the pandemic that affected everyone globally. But what about our animals? We can usually control their environment, shelter and somewhat their nutrition, but what about the debilitating diseases that infect them cause decreased performance? How can we minimize the risk to our livestock? Best practice is to institute practical biosecurity and quarantine protocols on your premises.
Simply stated, Bio-security is procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents. One of the most practical methods for instituting biosecurity is to practice quarantine protocols when introducing new livestock into your herd/flock.
New additions to your flock/herd should be placed into a quarantine area that is easily cleaned, provides shelter, nutrition, and allows animals to be treated with little effort if necessary. The quarantine pen should be at least 100 feet from other livestock. With sheep and goats the biggest risk is introducing intestinal parasites/coccidia that are resistant to routine dewormers and coccidial treatments. A fecal exam should be performed on all new introductions. Treatment should be applied based on that fecal exam and a follow up fecal exam (fecal reduction test) should be performed 10 days later. If the animal had a positive fecal exam, dewormer/coccidia treatment given, and there was not a 90% reduction in egg numbers, then you just might be introducing resistant parasites into your herd/flock.
Be sure to trim hooves when you first place them into quarantine so it allows for thorough inspection of their hooves and treatment of anything suspicious. It is also an excellent time to vaccinate the animals if any vaccinations are necessary (remember what happens when you assume they have already been vaccinated).
Animals should be kept in quarantine for at least 14 days but 30 days is preferable. Most diseases like foot rot, contagious pinkeye, pneumonia, external parasites, caseous lymphadenitis, etc. will usually be exhibited within this quarantine period. These are diseases that can be prevented from introduction into your herd just by practicing quarantine protocols.
What about visitors on the farm?
Never be afraid to ask visitors to put plastic booties over their shoes. This not only prevents them from introducing something but also allows them to prevent carrying something home from your farm. If you don’t want to use plastic booties, then I would recommend setting up a foot bath for visitors to walk through prior to walking out to see your animals. In poultry/swine premises many of these facilities don’t allow visitors or they require all visitors to shower in/shower out prior to entering their facility and have a “line of separation”, “Clean/Dirty line” where vehicles and visitors are not allowed to cross without proper personal protective clothing.
Why do we always preach about keeping records? If you didn’t record it, it never happened!!! Not only should date of purchase, treatments administered, vaccines given, breeding/kidding dates, etc be recorded, but maybe get into the habit of recording all visitors that have come to see your animals or facilities. This is essential in the face of a foreign animal disease introduction to determine who brought the disease.
What About Competing at Livestock Shows
Many of us enjoy competing at the livestock shows. In 2020, our world turned upside down and the way we exhibited livestock took on a whole different look. Livestock exhibitors were required to “show off their trailers” instead of putting their animals into a pen at the fairgrounds. This actually was a positive step towards biosecurity and reduced exposure to pathogens that reside on the pen surfaces from the previous animals which were in that pen. One year right before the KY State Fair we were told that we had to use pens at a fairgrounds instead of leaving them on the trailer at a county fair. Our goats came down with soremouth within 7-10 days after that show which put healing under a time crunch for the state fair.
If you must use pens provided at a fairgrounds, use a disinfectant spray effective against viruses, bacteria, fungal diseases, etc. on the surface and floor of the pens. These are definitely more available than in the past. After returning home, how many of us just put the animals back in the pasture with the other animals we own? This is actually not a wise decision and animals that are exhibited should probably be kept in a separate area where they can be cared for during the show season and away from the rest of the herd in the event that a disease is acquired at a show.
One of the easiest ways to bring disease into your animals is to borrow your neighbor’s equipment for cleaning the barns, feeding, grooming, etc. Be sure to disinfect all equipment prior to utilizing on your premises. If you are at a show, you should always clean brushes, food/water buckets, clippers, leads, blankets, etc. that are used on your animals. While you are clipping your show animal, be sure to thoroughly clean the clippers (including hoof trimmers) between animals to prevent fungal/bacterial diseases.
Herd Health Practices
If you have an infectious disease process happening on your farm, utilize your veterinarian to determine the course of treatment necessary to reestablish health to the herd/flock. When feeding and working with this group be sure they are the last ones to feed/treat in the daily routine of caring for your animals. Try to use a different set of shoes for the quarantined areas or utilize foot baths to clean your shoes between clean/dirty areas of your farm. And remember to wash your hands after leaving this area so no disease is transmitted to your healthy animals within your herd.
One thing we always strive to do is maintain a clean healthy herd that provides the best quality product to the consumer whether it be meat, milk or fiber. Enjoy your livestock and the practice of good husbandry and hopefully you will reap the benefits!!!
Excellent Resource: Center for Food Security and Public Health
Dr. Beth Johnson, is a Staff Veterinarian in the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and has 40 years of experience raising and treating small ruminants. Her family farms in Parksville, KY where she raises Gelbvieh cattle and Boer goats.