Since our Arapawa population is critically-endangered with US numbers around 300+, herd health is BEYOND IMPERATIVE, as much as our genetic diversity is within the breed. Our network of breeders are spread out across America, with pockets of herds existing in the Northeast, East Coast, and Midwest. With clear communication, information sharing, consistent disease-testing, and good herd management including biosecurity practices, we as breeders/owners can continue the work of increasing and advancing this wonderful and unique goat.
Paratuberculosis or Johne’s Disease (pronounced “YO-knees”) is a highly transmittable and contagious goat disease. It is difficult to detect in some lab tests, is transmitted through milk, feces, and in utero (from dam to kid), and studies are still unclear if it is contagious to humans. It’s akin to the human version of Crohn’s Disease, wherein the gastrointestinal system of goats is severely affected, causing malabsorption of food and chronic wasting.
Johne’s Disease can survive in soil for years, and is untreatable, without any vaccine available and no known cure. It is caused by the bacterium, Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis or MAP, for short. Goats can be infected with either a sheep or goat variant of the bacteria, and the disease is also present in wild populations of deer, elk, and bison. This debilitating goat disease, as well as several others (like CAE, CL) is NOT something you want in your herd, and conscientious herd management and biosecurity is highly recommended.
What are the symptoms of Johne’s Disease?
Main symptoms of Johne’s Disease include:
· progressive weight loss starting after age 1 and before age 3 (despite appearing to eat and drink normally AND appearing asymptomatic)
· rough coat
· depressed and/or inactive behavior/fatigue
Kids born to a Johne’s-positive dam MAY BE exposed to the disease (in utero and once they begin nursing). Kid goats can potentially be exposed to MAP bacterium from fecal matter (in stalls, in soil of affected pastures). Pulling kids from dams upon kidding, therefore, won’t necessarily protect them from exposure. PREVENTION is key! However, intensive management after a confirmed positive in one’s herd IS POSSIBLE. Here’s a great link about that:
These symptoms (rough coat, weight loss, diarrhea, lethargy) can be caused by other illnesses/diseases (i.e. internal/external parasites, nutritional deficiencies/imbalances) or herd management issues (dominant goats blocking subordinates from feeding). Take a closer look at your entire herd, and be proactive about contacting a veterinarian who’s well-versed in small ruminant problems.
Testing and Next Steps
Necropsy of a symptomatic goat and tissue sample testing is the only DEFINITIVE method for disease confirmation. However, there are several other tests available for detecting Johne’s in your herd:
1. Blood/serum or milk antibody (ELISA or AGID): Results take 3-5 days depending on lab
· symptomatic goats/actively shedding bacteria--test detects antibodies 85-100% of the time
· asymptomatic goats/not shedding at time of test—test detects antibodies only 20-50% of the time
2. DNA PCR Assay: Can be conducted via fecal or tissue culture. Reliability is similar to fecal culture, but results return in 7-10 days depending on lab
3. Fecal culture: only gives positive result if animal is actively shedding the bacteria into its system (and a symptomatic goat may or MAY NOT actively shed the bacteria). Results take 7-13 weeks. This is not the RECOMMENDED way to test.
**NOTE: Testing can be conducted individually (per goat) or herd-wide in pooled sampling methods (fecal PCR). Depending on your farm/herd, it is important to discuss with a vet or accredited laboratory which test (a blood sample or fecal PCR) best fits your needs.
Some links for accredited veterinary labs that offer Johne’s testing (and various other goat disease tests/panels):
When should testing be conducted?
· any time you suspect Johne’s in your herd based on the above-mentioned symptoms
· before you purchase Arapawa goats from other AGBA active-member breeders (ask for copies of recent herd testing results and/or request and pay for testing to be performed on the intended goats/herd)
· before you purchase goats from non-AGBA breeders who claim to possess Arapawa goats (ask for pedigrees, genetic tests from our AGBA database, not from Pedigree International)
· yearly if you are actively breeding and selling goats (can be pooled for herd testing)
If you have questions and/or concerns, always feel free to reach out to the Arapawa Goat Breeders Association for more guidance and assistance. We are here to support and help each other and conserve this beautiful breed.
***Information taken from Holistic Goat Care, Giancalis Caldwell; johnes.org (University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Veterinary Medicine; https://waddl.vetmed.wsu.edu/animal-disease-faq/johnes-testing