Sunday, April 29, 2012

Quarantining new animals

It's spring, which means babies on the farm, and often, buying babies from other farms! A couple of months ago a fairly new farmer was telling me about a boar he bought that brought a whole lot of health issues to his whole herd, and he said the vet told him, "All of your health problems are bought and sold," meaning that you buy new animals and bring health problems onto your farm. This is why it's important to quarantine new animals for about a month after they arrive on your farm.

Sometimes I hear new people say that they don't have a place to quarantine new animals, but seriously, if you don't have space to quarantine new animals, you shouldn't be buying them. Just for regular farm operations, you need a space for animals that get sick or injured and need to be separated from the rest of the herd or flock. Why is quarantine so important?

The fourth buck that I ever bought died only a few weeks after I brought him home, AND a couple months later, I lost two additional bucks to the same problem -- parasites. If only I had quarantined him, at most, I would have lost only him. But I put him in the pasture with the other bucks, so he scattered his parasite eggs all over the pasture, where the other bucks could ingest them. Although I dewormed and moved the surviving bucks to a new pasture, it ultimately proved to be too late. Solving problems is always harder than preventing them!

You should also quarantine a new animal for their own health. Coming to a new farm is very stressful for an animal, and they are going to be especially susceptible to parasites and other health challenges. It is less stressful for their body to be in the barn on clean straw or in a "clean" pasture, which is one that hasn't had the same species grazing there for the past year.

It is also less stressful for herd animals to not be alone, so it's a good idea to buy two or more animals from a farm. It is also a good idea from a biosecurity perspective to limit the number of farms from where you buy your animals. I always cringe inside when I hear someone say that they're starting their herd from five or six other herds. And usually they're bringing them all home and putting them together from day one. Even if all of those herds had healthy animals, the stress of moving will take its toll. And all of those animals had their own physiological challenges that they were successfully combating on their farm, but when you bring them together, and they start sharing their germs, someone is going to get sick -- and you will have no idea where the problem originated. This is one reason modern feedlots are such a bad idea and why they have to rely so heavily on drugs to keep the animals alive. You don't see organic feedlots.

Quarantining should be relatively easy if you have a barn with multiple stalls, but what if you don't have that luxury? If you have a large open barn, you can create separate pens with pig panels (for animals that don't jump) or combination livestock panels, which are taller. New animals really should not share a fenceline because some germs can spread via nasal secretions or saliva, and certainly many can be spread via blood. If you have goats or sheep, they may butt heads through the fence until one or both is bleeding. Other diseases can be spread via feces, and animals can wind up pooping in the next pasture or pen if they are backed up against the fence. And all of us with animals know that "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence," so animals will be sticking their heads through the fence to eat the grass on the other side.

It is okay if different species share a fenceline
because they have different diseases and parasites.
Pigs and goats share a fenceline here.
One reason we love temporary electric netting fencing is because you can set up a temporary pasture almost anywhere. You can also create a quarantine pen using four livestock panels outside. It makes a 16-by-16-foot pen, which can be moved every day or two. You can put it in an area where you don't normally have livestock grazing like a side yard next to your house. That way, you can also keep a close eye on the new animals. If they are baby goats or lambs, you can give them a large plastic dog house for shelter. Although I've never used them myself, a lot of people really like the dog igloos because they remove the bottom, which means it can be moved to clean grass daily, rather than requiring regular cleaning.

It is easy to say that you don't have the money or time to create a quarantine area, but the price is small compared to the loss of a valuable animal -- or in my case seven years ago, the loss of three valuable animals.

8 comments:

  1. I'd like to add, for smaller animals like chickens and other fowl on a small farm, that keeping a chicken tractor is an excellent way to keep new birds (and even some smaller animals) quarantined. Also makes a handy nursery for broody hens and their newly hatched chicks! :)

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    1. Excellent suggestion! All of our turkey mamas and babies go into a poultry tractor.

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  2. Bookmarked this for future reference. Thanks for the informative post!

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  3. Great post Deborah, especially loved the parts about only buying from a very few other farms. I also put a clause in the paperwork of animals I've sold, offering a full refund if the animala they bought from me gets ill within 7 days and I ask the same of those we buy from. it's just like we keep saying "know your farmer'!

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  4. Excellent advice, Deborah; I hope lots and lots of people see this!

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  5. In fact, I'm going to put a link to this on the Shetland list!

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  6. I have talked to many people who do not quarantine, and I tell them they are asking for disaster. I only have chickens and rabbits, but I use a chicken tractor and our old coop and run to quarantine new or sick animals.

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  7. The purpose of a quarantine is to identify or treat sick animals, prevent the spread of disease and break the life cycle of parasites. When keeping goats and sheep in quarantine the animals should be put in a dry lot (an enclosure without grass). If the animal has parasites they will be shed during its isolation but will not be re-ingested thus preventing reinfection. It is recommended that they stay in the same stationary location for the duration of the quarantine. If parasites or disease is present you wouldn't want to spread it over a larger area.

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