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Introducing New Animals to Your Herd

By May 15, 2022March 3rd, 2023No Comments

Buying new animals can be an exciting proposition especially when coupled with excitement filled auctions or exhibitions. However, when purchasing animals, some consideration should be given to the health of the new animals and how it might affect the health of your current animals. Diseases are prevalent in large groups of animals comingled from different farms. Follow these guidelines to purchasing healthy animals and integrating them into you current herd.

Buying healthy animals should be your number one priority when looking to expand your herd. While it might be tempting to purchase the saddest looking animal in the auction barn, remember that these animals often come with advanced disease and resistant bacteria that lead to complications that result in high cost of treatment. Many do not recover from treatment depending on their level of debilitation. Figuring the cost of treatment into the purchase price of the animal may change your mind about a “good deal.”

A sick calf (left) should prompt you to think about the cost of treatment vs a healthy calf (right).

Purchasing a healthy animal is relatively easy. Healthy animals are alert and curious about their surroundings. They also have smooth shiny haircoats and are an appropriate weight for their breed and age. Ideally, healthy animals will have been vaccinated for common diseases. Vaccinated animals are a sign that the previous owner’s took good care of them. The following table outlines some common vaccinations to expect for different species.

Common disease that each species should be vaccinated for prior to purchase

Purchased animals should be tested for certain diseases before introducing them to your property and animals. In general, these diseases are ones that are not treatable, or are difficult to eradicate once introduced into a herd. Some disease presence may make it more difficult to market your herd when selling animals so take care. The following table provides some examples of suggested mandatory testing for different species and optional testing depending on the origin of the purchased animals and your herd goals.

Common diseases to test for in different species

Once purchased animals have been transported to your farm, it is important to isolate the new animals from your existing herd for at least 30 days. Hopefully, you have done your due diligence in terms of purchasing vaccinated and tested animals for common diseases. This will decrease the incidence of disease that could be introduced into your herd. However, since we cannot vaccinate or test for every disease, isolation is still important. Additionally, animals may have been exposed to new diseases at the auction or sale venue. It takes anywhere from 2 to 14 days or more for animals to start showing clinical signs of disease. In one case, a horse rescue quarantined new horses for 30 days and introduced horses to the herd and on day 33, the new horses developed clinical strangles which resulted in the state quarantining the farm.

Physical contact between animals can lead to the spread of disease.

Isolation protocols are important to prevent disease spread. New animals should not be housed in the same facilities as your original herd. Fences should be far enough apart to prevent nose-to-nose contact. Keep in mind that some respiratory diseases can transmit short distances in the air so keeping the animals as far apart as possible is a reasonable expectation. Also, make sure when feeding animals, to work with your original herd first, then move to the quarantined herd and never go back. If you must go back to the original herd, remember to wash hands and boots and to change clothing. Additionally, equipment such as brushes, manure forks, feed or water tubs should not be shared between original and quarantined groups. These are called fomites, inanimate objects that can spread disease organisms.

Easy enough to clean boots. Using water, a pan, bleach and a scrub brush. Make sure to rinse any manure off the boots before you begin to wash.

Finally, consider other things that must happen before the new animals join your herd. Vaccinating should occur approximately 2 weeks after arrival for any disease not previously vaccinated before. Deworming is also important to prevent the spread of parasites to your herd. Ideally, new animals should be dewormed on arrival and again in 2 weeks. Finally, consider other things that need to occur, such as castration and ear tagging before introducing new animals to the herd.

Following these guidelines will help you purchase healthy animals to introduce to your herd while protecting your herd’s health. As always, consult with your veterinarian on isolation protocols that will work for your facilities and herd.

Emily Dutton