Good flock/herd health benefits animals and producers 

Keeping small ruminants in good health is imperative to the success of a goat or sheep operation. This is where establishing a herd or flock health program comes in. 

Following a health program, created with the help of a veterinarian familiar with the herd or flock, allows producers an efficient way to stay on a routine vaccination and deworming schedule, identify diseases and other potential health issues quickly and administer treatment, and implement biosecurity measures for the safety of their animals, all of which keeps small ruminants fit and at optimum production levels. 

The first step in creating a health program is finding a vet familiar with small ruminants, if a producer does not already have such a vet on call. Dr. Chelsey Kimbrough and Dr. Heidi Ward, with the University of Arkansas Extension explained sometimes a producer might need to assist their veterinarian in developing their small ruminant knowledge so they can assist in establishing an appropriate health program. 

In some cases, you may have to select a veterinarian you like and allow him/her to gain experience with goats in your herd. The veterinarian has the training to provide a diagnosis or the means of obtaining a diagnosis when a disease occurs. The veterinarian should also be familiar with products for treating goats, as well as current regulations and health requirements for shipping animals.

Personal observation and record keeping are cornerstones of a health program. Observing normal behavior now will help a producer identify abnormal behavior later and will put them in a better position to quickly administer treatment or call the vet. Records, like with any agricultural enterprise, are a must. Producers should record their observations of any animals that are unwell, along with the frequency and type of treatment administered. Dates of routine vaccinations and deworming, animal identification numbers, Body Condition Score (BCS), frequency of maintenance tasks like hoof trimmings, etc., should also be recorded. 

Each operation will vary somewhat in its vaccination needs and schedule, but some common vaccinations are CDT (an enterotoxemia vaccine for sheep and goats), BoSe (to prevent selenium deficiency, primarily given to goats), blackleg (sheep and goats) and sore mouth (sheep and goats). Routine deworming is also a typical part of a health program. The herd/flock veterinarian can help producers determine what their animals need and when. Hoof trimming needs will also vary by operation but is a management practice that should ideally be implemented in some form or fashion. 

Nutrition is another important aspect of a small ruminant health program. Producers should consult with their veterinarian or nutrition specialist for this, as it will vary greatly from farm to farm, and by species. One key item to bear in mind is that goats need high amounts of copper in their diet, and sheep do not. The amount of copper required by a goat could kill a sheep. If a producer has both, they will need to be fed and receive appropriate mineral separately. Both will benefit from having access to free-choice salt. 

Producers should use their resources when it comes to developing a small ruminant health program. Veterinarians, nutrition specialists and area Extension professionals can help create a successful program that benefits both the producers and their herd or flock. 


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