The very word biosecurity conjures up images of high tech labs surrounded by chain link fence with razor wire where scary folks spend their days working on complex stuff involving beakers with foaming liquid and dripping IV lines and folks in white lab coats or biohazard space man suits all under bright lights and surrounded by gleaming stainless steel, right? Or maybe I read too many Michael Crichton books and watch too much CSI!
There are a lot of really scary goat diseases out there and nasty creepy crawlies too. CL, CAE, Johnes, Q-Fever, Lice, Mites, Barber Pole worms . . . Ugh! A lot of goat diseases are incurable and untreatable too. There are things that you just don't want to bring onto your farm or expose your goats too. The more we find out, the scarier the world of goats gets. Whether pets, milkers, meaters, hobbyist, or big time breeder we all need to be aware of what's out there and be ready and able to take some common sense precaution.
We are extremely careful and always aware. On our farms and at other farms. Theres not a whole lot you can do at other peoples farms but you can do a lot to not bring anything home. When visiting other farms wear rubber boots and make sure to disinfect your boots or wear something over them. If you disinfect your boots, you should do it before and after farm visits. You can bring home the bacteria that caused hoof rot and CL on your boots quite easily. Wash your hands and change clothes after visiting other farms where you are unsure of their methods or practices before going out to your own animals. Lice and mites can be carries home on sleeves and goats can share the goat version of the common cold too. Ask others to do these things when they come to your farm too. A simple spray bottle with a diluted bleach solution is great for boots and hand sanitizer is fast and simple (or, if your weird like we are about all the crazy mumbo jumbo in hand sanitizer, a spritzer bottle of rubbing alcohol is just as effective).
When visiting other farms, look at the animals. Look for dull coats, lame goats or swollen joints, nasal discharge or coughing, thin or unthrifty animals. If the animals are obvious not well, turn around and leave. Look at the practices in evidence there. Are the stalls clean and well bedded or wet and ammonia smelling? Is the feed up off the ground? Are minerals present? Is there fresh, clean water? It may seem pretty nit-picky but these are all things that contribute to the health or illness of the herd. If the health of the herd is not maintained then the risk of bringing something home to your own herd is greater.
Biosecurity at home includes some simple things, like never using the same needle on multiple goats when vaccinating, to things that we rarely think of, much less actually do, like disinfecting clipper blades between goats.
One of the most important things you can do at home is to have a place to quarantine a sick goat or new goat. This should be well away from the existing herd and relatively small with a good shelter, especially if you use the area for sick goats. We quarantine new goats for a minimum of 30 days. We make sure to feed and clean the quarantine area last every day and we leave a bottle of disinfecting spray by the door. This minimizes the risk of carrying cooties back to the herd.
I know that biosecurity sounds like quite the pain in the booty, and it is, but the effort spent avoiding contagion is well worth it. The few times I have skipped things it has always ended poorly. Like the time I loaned out my clippers and didn't sanitize the blades when I got them back and gave my entire group of 20+ goats blood sucking mites that costs me hundreds of dollars to get rid of. Not to mention the hours spent treating every goat multiple times and stripping my deep bedded barn multiple times in February (my back hurt for weeks after that!) and disinfecting everything. Or when I brought in a new goat from a farm I know well and decided to skip quarantine only to get a phone call a few weeks later from the previous owner saying they had a heavy load of Barber Pole worms. Boy that one was a rough go to get on top of.
A bit of prevention goes a long way in the world of goats! So, safe and happy goating to all of you!
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