Goats depend on and do well in herds because they are incredibly social animals. Taking care of a herd of goats is obviously more difficult than taking care of a single goat, and it is very important to establish and maintain the health of the herd in order to have happy, producing goats.
Establishing and Maintaining Herd Health
Since goats are not usually kept as pets but as farm animals used for milk, meat or breeding purposes, their ability to grow well, stay healthy and procreate is extremely important. However, each herd has their own health situation, and therefore each herd should be fully evaluated by a veterinarian in order to establish an optimal herd health plan. This herd health plan will take into account any medications, vaccinations, wormers, injuries, production, breeding and culling that may be necessary. Your veterinarian will also suggest strict sanitation procedures, as disease among goat herds is often caused by poor sanitation.
One of the more common disease issues among goat herds is intestinal parasites, which can cause poor growth rates, coughing, diarrhea, digestive problems and even death. For this reason, your veterinarian will help you establish a deworming schedule, based on past dewormer use, grazing density and other herd health issues and concerns. It is highly recommended that you do not simply purchase and use any sort of deworming products without first coordinating with your veterinarian, especially since some products have poor efficacy against specific types of intestinal parasites. In addition to addressing this important issue, one can help to ensure proper goat herd health by:
- Providing good nutrition. Despite their attempts to prove otherwise, goats cannot actually eat anything and everything. It is extremely important that they adhere to an appropriate feeding program in order to ensure proper digestive function and good nutrition. An appropriate feeding program can also help to ensure that goats are able to grow and produce milk, as well as build their immune systems. Your veterinarian can perform feed testing in order to verify whether your goats are receiving enough carbohydrates, protein, minerals and vitamins. This can help to prevent a nutrition-related disease outbreak, which can be caused by both nutrient deficiency and nutrient excess.
- Vaccinate properly. While it’s understandable that the cost of vaccines can be quite high, the cost of skipping vaccines is even higher. Vaccines can help to prevent disease outbreaks from occurring, and reduce the severity of disease outbreaks if they do occur. Your veterinarian will help you to understand vaccine-preventable diseases and what vaccine protocol will therefore work best for you.
- Purchasing animals from healthy herds. If you bring unhealthy animals into your herd, you put the entire herd at risk of a potentially devastating disease outbreak. Many animal auctions will sell unhealthy animals at a premium price, and so should be entirely avoided. When you purchase animals directly from another farm, they are less likely to experience stress during their transition to your farm, which can dramatically reduce the risk of disease.
- Quarantining new and sick animals. New animals should always be quarantined away from the rest of the herd for a minimum of two to four weeks, even if they appear to be entirely healthy. This helps to ensure that any stress-caused illness does not spread to the rest of the herd. For obvious reasons, sick animals should also be quarantined away from the rest of the herd until they are completely well.
- Keeping records of herd health management. This includes tracking vaccines, disease prevention, and all other health issues, and can help you to determine whether your herd health plan is working well to your needs or should be adjusted.
With a proper herd health plan and proper management, your goat herd can experience optimal health and produce as expected and desired. For more information about establishing and maintaining goat herd health, contact La Crosse today.