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Biosecurity measures can prevent disease from entering dairy goat operations

Holly Neaton for Progressive Dairyman Published on 09 June 2017
Goats out in the pasture

Keeping diseases off goat farms can be difficult even if you are familiar with how diseases are transmitted and how to identify signs. Many disease-causing agents can only be identified by serological tests, cultures or fecal exams.

The tests are not always 100 percent reliable, but testing for these viruses, bacteria and parasites prior to purchase can save heartache and financial loss in the long run.



Knowledge of a home-herd disease status must be evaluated first. Diseases flow both ways – from the home herd to the purchased animals and the other way. Keeping your animals protected from diseases that have vaccines available is good husbandry.

Unfortunately, there are more diseases that are not preventable through any other means than preventing them from entering your farm via new animals.

Biosecurity can be very difficult to impossible in herds that enjoy showing, sharing bucks or purchasing animals at sales. These activities may be chosen over keeping a closed herd and exposure to disease agents may take a back seat. Although, there are ways to minimize the risks.

Keeping a closed herd and working to eliminate disease requires knowledge, diligence and a good working relationship with a small-ruminant veterinarian. Almost all closed herds need genetic replacements every few years so purchasing bucks can be a challenge.

What to recommend to producers who are adding animals to a herd?


Know the diseases present already in your home herd and be prepared to vaccinate or protect new additions.

Get as much information as possible from the owners of animals prior to purchasing regarding disease issues present in their herds. Work with your veterinarian to help with the following suggestions:

  • Test animals for CAEv or PTB (Johne’s disease) and examine for abscesses, external parasites and foot problems before purchasing.

  • If the above testing is not possible prior to bringing the animals onto your farm, hold them in isolation for at least 30 days and test before releasing into your home herd.

  • To avoid bringing anthelmintic-resistant parasites onto your farm, collect a fecal sample for a fecal egg count, deworm with several dewormers and repeat the fecal egg count 10 to 14 days later to evaluate the effectiveness of the dewormers.

  • Watch the newly purchased animals closely while in isolation. You may go as far as treating the eyes with tetracycline ointment to avoid bringing in conjunctivitis (pinkeye), dipping the hooves in a product to avoid introducing foot rot or scald, pouring the new animals with a pyrethrin insecticide twice 10 days apart for lice, spraying the bottom halves of the legs with an ivermectin-based pour-on to treat any chorioptes mange (heel mites) that may be present. This should also be repeated in 10 days.

  • If purchasing females to add to your milking herd, ask to see somatic cell counts and any milk cultures to avoid bringing in Staphylococcus aureus or other infectious mastitis agents.

  • If you do enjoy bringing your animals to shows and fairs, isolate them from your home animals after they return. If you are on a CAEv prevention program, test them twice before re-entering back into the home herd.

  • Don’t share equipment, avoid close contact with other animals in the washing and milking areas and ask for an outside pen or extra tack stalls on either side if possible.

The majority of diseases are brought onto a farm through animals. You buy them. But some basic biosecurity practices can also help prevent disease from entering your farm.

  • Keep your own herd protected by practicing good nutrition, parasite control and vaccination programs.

  • Ask visitors to wear clean footwear and clothing when visiting and provide footbaths to dip their boots in.

  • Remove stray cats; keep bird, fly and rodent populations under control.

  • Keep fences in good shape.

Try to avoid purchasing pregnant animals when you have pregnant animals on the farm. Small ruminants are especially vulnerable to agents that cause abortions and fertility problems.

Mixing pregnant animals from different sources is a perfect setup for an abortion storm. Let them share the bugs with each other before they are pregnant to build up some immunity if possible.

Last, do not forget about the diseases that also affect humans. Contagious echthyma (sore mouth), club lamb fungus, Q fever (Coxiella burnetii), campylobacter, chlamydia and cryptosporidia are all zoonotic agents that can infect humans.


Take precautions if any of these are diagnosed and especially protect vulnerable people such as children, pregnant women and the elderly or immunosuppressed.

This all sounds like a lot of work, but it is well worth the effort to prevent a disease from entering your farm.

Eradicating a disease once it has entered is much more expensive and labor-intensive.  end mark

PHOTO: Small ruminants are susceptible to a variety of diseases. Whether maintaining a closed herd, purchasing animals from other farms or enjoying shows and sales, following a number of biosecurity measures can keep dairy goats in good health. Staff photo.