Fighting The Cold Wet Weather

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You know, everytime I begin to think I know something about raising our Heritage Spanish Goats, I get a lesson on how little I do know. I have been raising these fine animals for three and a half years now and I thought that foot rot was something that I would never have to deal with. Wrong!

This past winter and spring were unusually cool and wet in this part of Oregon. We raise our Heritage Spanish Goats just outside McMinnville, Oregon.  The constant wet weather seems to be an ideal condition for the bacteria that causes foot rot to get spread around.

According to studies that I have read, the bacteria can only live in soil for two to three weeks. So, if you don't have foot rot you shouldn't be able to get it in your herd.  However, you can introduce it to your herd even if you have never had animals with foot rot set foot on your soil.  Let me explain.  This spring everything was soaking wet, water was running everywhere and things got muddy fast in any areas that had little or no grass.

Our neighbor shares an equipment barn with us and he also rents to people that raise sheep.  Those sheep occasionally wonder into the barn and hang out. It's an open front barn without doors of any kind so it's hard to keep the sheep out. While there, the sheep, being sheep, defecate all around.

You guessed it! Those sheep often have foot rot and limp a lot. The sheep are only here from January to March or April and then they are moved to other pasture. While they are here they deposit a lot of droppings in areas that my wife and I have to walk in. Until this spring I had never given a moments thought to the foot rot issue being spread  around by our boots.

That's right, my wife and I probably carried the bacteria from an area that our goats never come in contact with into the barn area where our goats come and go, on our boots. The sheep are never allowed to enter the fields where our goats are browseing for a particular reason. Can you guess that reason? That's Right, we don't want the sheep to infect our goats with their foot rot! It seems that we have done it for them. Isn't that just lovely!

We were lucky, only two of our goats started limping and we reacted fast. First we isolated them in sick pens and checked and trimmed their hooves. Of course we wore disposable gloves and cleaned the trimmers between goats.  The treatment consisted of soaking each of their feet in a solution of water and zinc sulfate and then we packed dry zinc sulfate between their claws. You can also use a water and copper sulfate solution or one of the foot rot treatments available in most feed stores and farm supply dealers. Remember, if you use copper sulfate it will leave a bluish tint to everything it touches. We kept the two isolated for three weeks and then cleaned the pens out thoroughly. We also set up some gates and resticted their traffic flow into and out of their barn and pen area behind the barn so that they had to travel in single file going and coming. In the middle of the narrow paths we placed about two pounds of  powdered zinc sulfate so that the whole herd had to walk through it. We kept the powder in those areas as long as the rain held off. We also put mineral blocks specifically made for goats that contains zinc sulfate in all the areas where they come and go.

It seems that what we did worked. We only had two that we had to treat. We have checked the rest of the herd and hopefully we have gotten beyond the foot rot problem. We have learned to hose off our boots when we have been in areas where the sheep have been.

I hope that I never get too old to learn. I have certainly learned a great lesson here. Getting foot rot takes a lot of time to clear up as well as money for chemicals. During this ordeal I also learned that during wet weather when things are muddy it is easier to transfer the bacteria around but you can carry the bacteria on your boots in completely dry weather so using good hygiene practices by keeping your boots clean all of the time is good advice.

Until next time, find something to laugh about. It's good for spirit, soul and body.