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Disease eradication in Norwegian goats

"Friskere geiter" or Healthier goats is a project with the purpose of eradicating three contagious diseases in the Norwegian goat population. It is funded by the annual negotiations between the state and the farmer's organizations as a part of the agreement "Jordbruksavtalen". TINE also makes a considerable contribution. The "project owner" is the Norwegian goat health service.

The diseases to be eradicated are:

  1. CLA (caseous lymfadenitis), a bacterial disease causing abscesses in the lymphatic nodules.
  2. Paratuberculosis or Johne's disease, a bacterial disease with symptoms in the intestine
  3. CAE (caprine arthritis and encephalitis), a viral disease causing mainly arthritis and encephalitis. Often it will present itself as a wasting disease, with the animal loosing weight very quickly. CAE is the most widespread disease of the three.

These diseases are represented all over the world especially in intensive goat farming. Few countries have a national plan for eradicating all these diseases. Switzerland has eradicated CAE, Sweden started on it and in Great Britain the goat association has a successful program that farmers can join. There have been made less efforts to eradicate the two other diseases. As far as I know from other countries, this work is carried out by farmers on an individual basis.

Background

In Norway the project started in 2001. The guidelines from Switzerland and Sweden were followed from the beginning, but through the years there have been made some modifications. In the pilot project 22 farmers took part and all of those farmers have finished the work with good results. In 2005 the decision to expand the project was taken and more money was put into it. In August 2006 246 farmers have applied to join the project which is lasting until 2010. 118 farms will have done the work at the end of 2006.

"Snatching" goat kids

Many farmers have to do a lot of work. Some of the flocks have all the three diseases, while others only may have CAE or CLA. The diseases are chronic and resist treatment, therefore the whole flock has to be replaced by healthy animals. There are few healthy animals to buy, so the technique of "snatching" kids has to be used. This means that the farmer need to survey every goat kidding. In helping with the delivery, he or she has to take the kid away from the barn as quickly as possible avoiding contact with the animals or any equipment in the barn. The kids are then brought to a clean barn, given cow's colostrums and brought up there separate from the older animals. The diseases are usually not transmitted to the kids before they are born.

The old goats are kept until the milking season is over. Then they are sent to the slaughterhouse, the barn is fixed, cleaned, disinfected and dried before the kids are brought in. Outside close to the barn efforts have to be made to clean up the surroundings. That includes replacing infected soil with clean soil. The kids are mated and will start to produce milk at the same time of the year as usual for the farm. So the farmers can continue the milk production without a break.

Tests

To survey the eradication there is a need for extensive testing. The first test for CAE is done before the kids are 5 weeks old to find those kids that may have been infected at birth. The next test is within a year. And there are tests following up depending on the results of each test. Bulk milk testing shows promising results. In the future this will make testing easier and less expensive. CLA does not require so much laboratory testing because the initial symptoms of an infection are easy to detect.

For Johne's disease there exists various tests, but none of them are really good. A new test, the gammainterferontest, shows promising results but needs more investigation.
The test results from the flocks that have performed eradication show very few CAE-positive animals, and all positive animals are culled immediately. There have been seen no cases of CLA and Johne's disease so far. The farmers can tell that the goats are much more active and vigorous than what they have seen before.

More milk, better quality

The first year after eradication the healthy goats may produce a little less then the old goats used to do, but very often they produce more even the first year. After two years the milk production has risen considerably compared to the flock's yield before eradication. There are also indications that the mean milk cell count is less and that the quality is better.

The good results of the eradication shows that the diseases are a big burden for the goats and that they have a substantial negative impact on production. Therefore it is necessary to continue this work in Norway until the diseases no longer exist here.