What Happens When Johne’s Disease Appears in Your Herd? Part 1

From 1997 to 2002 I ran a research project to describe how to best use goats to reduce fire danger to homes and firefighters. I ran a herd that grew to 130 animals and used them to create firebreaks. We measured how quickly they could create breaks, monitored regrowth and regrazing timing, and then modeled fire behavior to see if the firebreaks could slow or stop wildfires. We learned a great deal about the usefulness of goats as a fire management tool. (You can read more about the project here.) But as with all projects we learned things that we never set out to discover. One of these was a course in Johne's disease. How it Began In the fall of 2001, two six-year-old wethers in our herd began to lose weight. Pancho and Francisco seemed willing to eat, but unable to compete for a place at the feeder. To give them a better shot at the food, we put them in a pen with our “babies” – doelings and wethers who were about 9 months old. This turned out to be a critical error that many livestock producers make in the process of dealing with a disease that most have never heard of. They improved a bit, but then began to deteriorate again. They had no fever. They seemed interested in eating, but were extremely thin and they called to us when we came to feed each day. They began to have difficulty getting up and moved more and more slowly. We called the vet who took blood and fecal samples. Francisco’s stools were particularly loose and as he put the sample in the bag Dr.

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