Registered purebred and percentage Kiko Goats raised for hardiness, meat and pack goat prospects
Kopf Canyon Ranch

Testing Goats for CAE, CL, and Johne's Diseases

The first question to ask any breeder when considering a purchase is:

"Do you test?"

The cost of testing is about $20 a goat/year,  but in the whole scheme of things, it is worth every penny, dollar,  and hundreds of dollars.

When you go to purchase, do not just take the word of the goat owner, but ask to see the results of the testing for yourself.  Ask questions. Do not be afraid of offending them - if their herd is clean - they do the same thing  when they purchase! Also worth mentioning, one year of testing does not make a herd disease free, ask for results from previous years also!!! Even if you buy a young goat that has not been tested at least you will know that it comes from a clean (tested) herd. 

Copies of test results should be provided with your animal's purchase papers and health record.

Our 2017 Test Results:

CAE Negative, Johne's Negative, and a retest order on three of our CL. Of course our favorite results are negative - because we are adamant about having a clean herd. We are also staunch advocates of education and disclosure about herd status. We believe you should ALWAYS ask to see test results when purchasing goats...and recognize that sometimes you will see suspects and positives - even in clean herds. How? Because sometimes tests have false positives - (and also false negatives!) So how can you be sure a herd is clean? You test every year - even when they are negative to be sure they stay negative! A breeder should have more than one year of test results (if they have kept a herd for more than a year) and test results for new animals that come into the herd. If it is a clean, closed herd that is regularly tested, only a percentage of the animals are tested each year, and on a rotating basis. You should also look at the test parameters - not just the results - some animals have results on the fine edge - and when they do - you should see a retest! 

Some breeders will vaccinate for CL when it appears in their herd. A goat vaccinated for CL will always show positive, so the results are inconclusive. We will not vaccinate for CL, because we do not want our results masked. We are adamant about a disease-free herd - we want to see clear negatives. These three animals are on the fine edge of negative, have never shown clinical signs, so they will be retested.
Know the management protocol for a herd. Ask questions about biosecurity. The most reliable test for CL is on bacteria from an abscess. Does the breeder practice quarantine, and test abscesses? Know the limitations of the test, and the symptoms and means of disease transmission. Do your research - here is a great compilation of articles about CL:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/veterinary-science-and-veterinary-medicine/caseous-lymphadenitis

The first picture is the first test - match the animal IDs with the second test. All samples were drawn into labeled tubes, matching IDs, by a DVM.

Purchasing stock at a sale barn or auction house is risky.  To ensure the health of your herd, purchase from a reliable breeder or goat owner. You will not get a bargain goat but will get peace of mind knowing that the goat will not introduce disease to your herd, which can be devastating.

What is a "closed herd"?

A closed herd is a mangement practice to minimize exposure to disease.

Closed herds
  • do not allow goats from other farms on the premises
  • do not allow their goats on the premises of other farms
  • do not take their goats to shows, fairs, etc
  • have a process of quarantine when introducing new, tested animals to their herd

Closed herds can reduce their cost of testing by testing a sample each year, rather than every animal, to maintain their "clean" status. Different animals are tested at each sampling, so that on rotation, every animal is tested.  We generally test 20%  or more of our closed herd each year.   

If you are visiting a closed herd, you may have limited access to areas of the farm - such as pasture areas - but you should still  be able to see the management practices, and the animals in their natural environment. You may be asked to park in certain areas, or "boot wash" with a disinfectant before entering others. Be courteous, and if you are planning a farm visit, do not track soil from one farm to the  next  - on your boots - or on your tires! If you arrive muddy, you may be asked to go clean up!  Please do not take offense - it is in your interest, as well as the animals.                                       

Why test a closed herd?

It is the responsible, ethical thing to do. Diseases follow cycles.  

CAE is a retrovirus much like the human AIDS virus. In the case where a goat is in the acute phases of just contracting the virus and is producing antibodies in amounts too low for the test to pick up, a test could show negative.

CL can be contracted from the soil. Though a herd may be disease free in one location - they can contract the disease when moved to another location. Goats used for prescribed grazing, particularly with cattle, are at a high-risk for contracting soil-borne disease.

CL is controversial - do your research. Some assert that the tests are unreliable. Some vaccinate for CL which results in a false positive for the disease. Others question whether a  vaccinating protocol simply masks an infected herd.

There are animals submitted for testing are too young to detect disease presence.  You may see clean tests results  - but unless all of the animals tested are over six months, these are not reliable test results.

It is also our practice to quarantine sick goats, and culture any abscesses that cannot be attributed to a known cause (such as a vaccine or injury.) Abscesses in goats are not uncommon - particularly when browsing, and in a clean herd are generally attributed to a poke by a briar of sorts.
The test is $10.50 and a round trip to WSU, and the value is complete peace of mind.

How is bioscreen testing done?

Testing is done on drawn blood. In a goat, the blood is drawn from the jugular,
The blood is sent in sample tubes on ice to a lab. Results are usually available in a week, depending on the test cycle, so always ask which day the lab prefers to receive samples. 

If you are squeamish about drawing blood from the jugular, which is understandable, contact your vet. While a farm call for this alone may be expensive, you can bundle it with a visit for health certificates (for goats leaving the state), or ask if they have a veterinary technician who is willing to do the draws for you.  If you want to have a go at it yourself, there are You Tube videos, or you might find another herdsman to mentor you.

The labs will give you directions on how to handle and pack the specimens.
Mishandling the specimens can invalidate your test.

How to draw blood
Video Instructions from Purdue University
Recommended Lab

What is CAE? click to read more...

Caprine Arthritis and Encephalitis (CAE):  This disease has two forms: the arthritis (visible) and the encephalitis (internal). This disease causes painful arthritic joints, mastitis, decreased milk production. Once a goat has this disease they can never rid themselves of it. The disease will be passed from mother to kid through the milk, and can be passed through nasal discharge as well.

What is CL? click to read more...

Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL): This disease can cause visible abscesses around the lymph glands most often around the jawline which burst open and drain. The bacterium infect the soil making the disease difficult to eradicate. Most notable for the meat industry are the internal abscesses. Animals found to be contaminated with CL at slaughter are condemned.

What is Johne's Disease? click to read more...

Johnes Disease: pronounced (Yo-knees)This disease shows up as rapid weight loss and diarrhea and may stay dormant for many years. It has been linked to Crohns Disease in humans. Once an animal has this disease there is no cure and it can spread very quickly in the herd.