Below are the three most common diseases that are tested for annually. We test yearly for all three and also use to test for Brucellosis and Qfever. The low risk factor for our farm, the expense, availability, and accuracy of the Brucellosis & QFever blood tests, made us decide to only send in the proper tissue samples if we have any symptoms we are concerned with. We only purchase from tested farms. Please read the descriptions below as these conditions can infect your land for months or longer, can cause a horrible death in a beloved animal, can be highly contagious to other animals, and some are even transmittable to people. One can save themselves alot of money, heartache, and even health issues, by investing in animals that are disease free from the start.
Johnes (Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) or paratuberculosis): Johnes is a deadly contagious gastrointestinal disease that is in all ruminate animals (goats, cows, deer, etc). It stays in the soil and contaminates your land for many months. If your animal tests positive you should not run any other ruminates on that land for several months or more to avoid exposure to new animals. An animal can carry and pass the disease for years before it ever shows any symptoms. It is hard to test accurately. Stool sample testing is more accurate then blood but is more expensive. The body "sheds" the organism only randomly which is why an accurate test is more difficult. If you have one goat that tests positive for Johnes it is likely throughout your herd. Only test goats that are 12-18 months of age or older. Negative herd testing for 5 years in a herd that is closed (has not brought in any new animals) is really the only way a farm can claim disease free status from Johnes. We are not considered clear even though we have never had a positive test because we have brought in new animals. This is one of the main reasons we are a closed farm. Organisms on the shoes of someone who has an infected animal on their farm could contaminate our property. We do not allow guests to tour our farm, we have farm shoes we wear at home and town shoes we wear to town, and when we visit others farms for whatever reason, we disinfect our shoes and clothes when we get home. We do this not only for the safety of our goats but also because there is speculation, that has yet to be proven, that Johnes and Crohns diesease are the same. Since we have immune compromised individuals in our home it is not worth the risk of exposure for us. You should not eat an animal that test positive for Johnes. Cattle farms are a main contributor to the spread of Johnes in the United States. Johnes can also cause chronic wasting in deer, not just goats, so it is another risk to your goats if you have them pastured where there are a large number of deer. One of the best sites available to learn about Johnes is here.
CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis): It is a lentivirus infection that is a lifelong infection. Once the goat has it they can never get rid of it. To put it in perspective for you, HIV is a lentivirus. As you can tell in the name, younger kids under 4 month of age can get encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and older goats can get a form of arthritis. One of the common ways to tell is swollen joints in adults. The knee joints are a common area for swelling when an animal is dealing with an active infection. Transmission is most common from dam to kid during the birthing process. This is one of the reason's it is so important to test your dam's because a CAE positive dam should have her kids pulled as soon as they arrive. The dam should not even be able to lick the kid and all colostrum and milk from that dam needs to be pasteurized before it can be fed to the kid. Even with these cautions the kid CAN still transmit CAE from their dam. I know animals that have been pulled that end up CAE positive. CAE can be tested both through milk testing and blood testing. I have spoke with several breeders on CAE positive status in their animals. One breeder I spoke with had their animal die from CAE and it is a horrific, painful way for the animal to pass. There are other breeders I know that keep CAE positive animals and thus far no symptoms of CAE. My opinion, and it is only an opinion not backed up by scientific data, is this: the goats that are fine are more like someone living with HIV. The ones that are not are like someone living with AIDS. There are so many variables on why one goat would have a more active infection then another. I would think depending on age, genetics, nutrition, overall health (worm load, other unhealthy exposures, etc) would mean the difference of a more active infection verses a more dormant infection. An example of this would be a doe that was pulled from a positive dam. The doe was then tested at a year and she tested negative. She had a rough pregnancy, was malnourished, extremely skinny, and changed owners two times in 6 months. She now is testing positive and is showing signs with swollen joints. You can eat the meat from a CAE positive goat and drink the milk from a CAE positive goat. It does not affect humans at all.We personally purchase all our animals from tested herds and test all our animals once a year. We would not keep a positive animal on our farm. If you ever test positive I would retest with a different lab before you make a final decision. If you would like to learn more about CAE you can find it here.
CL (Caseous lymphadenitis): CL is a contagious zoonitic (can be transmited to people) disease that is caused by the bacteriaum Cornebacterium pseudotubercolosis. The most common symptom of this is abscesses in the lymph nodes. The body "walls off" the infection in the lymph nodes which then causes the abscess. If these abscesses burst on your property then the bacteria has now contaminated that area and any other animal in that area will be exposed to CL. Blood testing is inaccurate. It is used more as a herd identifier. If you have one that tests positive, just like with Johnes, it is likely throughout your herd. The only way to positively identify is sending in a sample of the fluid from an abscess. We do this on all abscesses on our farm and have never had a positive. If you find an abscess then quarantine the animal, take a syringe and remove fluid from the abscess, we then bandage so there is no possibility of leakage of bacteria, and wait for testing. If the test was positive we would put down the animal. If negative we clean out the abscess and treat accordingly and put the animal back with their herd. External abscesses are normally non-life threatening and some treat them by quarantining the animal, draining and flushing the abscess, and keeping quarantined until the area has healed. NO fluid from the abscess should be allowed on anything that you can not throw after cleaning. This DOES NOT CURE THE GOAT. The goat can and frequently will get other abscesses. Internal abscesses can be deadly. They also can be spread easier because you have no idea if they have burst internally and are shedding it in the feed dish or water dish or on the ground, etc. I wish all animals with CL would be butchered. The disease would then be eradicated in the United States. CL is also contagious in humans although rare. There is an immunization for CL but your animal may always test positive on blood tests if immunized. There is also still a risk of contracting CL. I know a breeder who had purchased immunized animals so they didn't worry that they tested positive on the blood test and then one of the goats got an abscess that indeed was positive for CL. There was a gentleman on a forum that used gloves when treating CL but still contracted and had to get lymph nodes removed from his body. Another person drank infected milk from a goat and also contracted the disease. I strongly recommend culling any animals testing positive through abscess. If you receive a positive blood test and have never had abscesses I would re-test my entire herd to make sure it was not a false positive. Merek explains some other information about CL here.
***Disclaimer: We are simple farmers and not veterinarians. This is for informational purpose only. What we do on our farm may not be what is best for your farm so please do your own research. This is not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice. We disclaim all liability in connection with the use of these products and/or information.