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By: "Penny Tyler"
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A few years ago I brought in goats from a different area of the country. Unfortunately they were incubating sore mouth, however, there were no outward indications that anything was going on. They had health certificates so as you can see it was not apparent to the vet either. The breeder who sent them didn't know at the time they were shipped, and called me as soon as they realized it had showed up in their herd. The breeder continued to be ethical and honest throughout the entire situation.

There are several strains of the sore mouth virus, somewhere in the area of 10 - 12 is what I have read and have been told by my vet. Each of these strains are different and so the goats can get sore mouth again if it is a different strain. There is a malignant strain of sore mouth, and that is what came in with the animals I brought in. My vet told me that the virus may have mutated because of the sudden severe climate change. The malignant form is life threatening, and I lost many goats before it was over. I even got a vaccine from the vet and used it to try to prevent the spread, but it really did not help.

I began to learn as much about sore mouth as possible as a result of this outbreak. One of the things that I found out is that it is highly contagious and NOT species specific. It can move between goats, sheep, cows, horses, and, even, humans. Those humans that have gotten it found it to be extremely painful. The two or three cases that I am aware of were sores on the arms and hands. Strict sanitation is necessary when dealing with animals that have active sore mouth. I highly recommend using the disposable plastic gloves. They are readily available and cheap. It also prevents cross contamination. It also goes by the name of Orf, Pustular Dermititis, or Malignant Aphtha. Second, just because it is called sore mouth, it can actually occur anywhere on the body, not just around the mouth. While sore mouth is highly contagious, it is not the sore mouth that is so dangerous, it is the secondary infection that can cause the problems. It was staph that complicated the malignant form that I had in my herd. As you may well be aware staph is nearly impossible to kill when it is active.

I had not had a reoccurrence of sore mouth after that was over. I always figured it would show up again but it had not. "They" say, and I don't know if it is true or not but, each time it reoccurs it is milder. It does make sense that there is some sort of passive resistance in kids, which might explain the milder form that people refer to.

Later, I brought in a new buck, it brought in sore mouth. The information about new strains has proven to be true. It went through my herd, and the goats that had sore mouth before have had sore mouth again. The way I knew it was a different strain is that according to my vet a particular animal won't get the same strain again. I have a list of goats that had it before and one of the first bucks to show up with it was one that had a bad case the first time. The only way they can get the same strain again is if they had a very mild case, and believe me there was nothing mild about that first out break.

So that is when I realized I needed to know more about sore mouth and went back and have done more research on it Even though the sore mouth is no longer active it is the scabs that carry it, because the virus lives on the scabs. It can live for a long time. If the goat carries a bit of scab in their coat or anywhere on them, and another goat comes in contact with it, if they have not had that strain, they can get it. Not to say it will for sure but that is how it spreads. Contact with scabs is the transmission method. That is why I thoroughly bath goats before they leave here.

The strain that has been here most recently is a mild form that is not all that bad just more of an annoyance. I always watch for secondary infection and treat them as needed. It created a bit more work but only had a few animals that needed treating for secondary infections. I again kept a list of the animals that got it so I can have it in my permanent records for the future. Good record keeping is a must. I'm just not willing to take any chances after losing over 50 goats from the malignant form that came in early on. Be diligent about treating the problems. I know this may seem very time consuming but you can't imagine the heartache this prevents.

I have a isolation pen that anything new goes into and stays for 6 - 8 weeks before they are moved in with my animals. It is safer for my herd and safer for the new animals too. The buck I brought in jumped the fence from the isolation pen and got into my buck pen just a few days after he came here. His sore mouth appeared after he did this. That is how the sore mouth spread.. I hadn't had a jumper in years. It just goes to show that nothing is 100%, but I feel I have to try. Even though I bathe goats the last thing before they leave my farm, I recommend to anyone buying animals from me that they get bathed when they arrive and that they go into isolation for at least 4 to 6 weeks.

If you breed for anyone else you need to know that your buck and or his pen could spread the virus or something else. Also you need to realize that if you breed for someone else that you could have something brought in from the does you breed. Anytime you put your buck at risk you put your whole herd at risk. Breeding for others is a risky thing to do, but everyone has to decide for themselves. I decided that I will not do outside breeding and I never have.

So you can see soremouth is something that is easily spread. It takes a lot of thought and consideration to prevent spreading sore mouth in your herd. I for one try above all to be honest and do everything I can to make sure I will not knowingly spread this to anyone else. It has not spread from my place to anyone else's that have bought goats from me. I make sure that people know about it and take all the precautions with any new animals. Many people have bought from me thorough out the USA and Canada, and I have never heard back from anyone that the sore mouth got to their herd.

Sore mouth is not the end of the world just another part of raising animals.

For further information:

Sheep Aliments by Eddie Straiton, 6th edition

Copyright © 2001 Penny J. Tyler

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