Wiping out scrapie in goats, the genetic way

More consumers are developing a taste for goat cheese, milk, and meat as they become aware of the high protein and great taste of these products. While U.S. goat producers are enjoying this steady trend, they remain focused on keeping their animals healthy, especially from scrapie—a fatal brain disease that affects goats and sheep.

“The goat industry is one of the fastest growing animal industries in agriculture,” says Stephen White, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist. “Not too many years ago, there were only a few hundred thousand goats in the country.” But in January 2018, goats and kids totaled 2.62 million head.

Meat and dairy are the biggest markets, followed by mohair, but goats serve in other unique capacities, says ARS veterinary medical officer David Schneider. Goats are being used to manage weedy areas along highways, get rid of kudzu in the Southeast, and even mow lawns. They’re also used as pack animals to carry supplies through rugged areas.

For any of these businesses, a single outbreak of scrapie could be devastating.

There is no cure or treatment for scrapie, which is in the same family—transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) or prion diseases—as mad cow disease. TSEs are rare degenerative brain disorders characterized by tiny holes that give the brain a “spongy” appearance.

Most often scrapie is transmitted through birth fluids to other goats and sheep, and it can remain infectious in the environment for many years. It was first recognized in sheep in Great Britain and other European countries more than 250 years ago and was first diagnosed in U.S. sheep in 1947 in a Michigan flock.

All animals that get scrapie die. But there is good news from ARS. White and Schneider, who both work at ARS’s Animal Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Washington, are the first to demonstrate by infectious disease challenge that goats with the S146 allele (a different form of a gene) are less susceptible to scrapie over a usual goat lifetime. They also tested the K222 allele in goats. Their research shows that goats with one copy of either the S146 or K222 allele did not develop scrapie after being challenged with infection at birth. The study was published in The Veterinary Journal in 2018.

“Commercial goats raised for either meat or milk age out of herd participation as milkers, dams of commercial offspring, or as sires by around 6 years of age,” White says. In this ongoing ARS research, goats with the resistance alleles have lived beyond this commercial lifetime—up to 7½ years—with no clinical disease and without getting sick.

The only countries considered to be scrapie free are Australia and New Zealand. Currently, if one goat is diagnosed with scrapie on a U.S. farm, all goats are quarantined for life or euthanized. “You couldn’t restock your operation with any susceptible animal,” White says. “The farmer’s operation would be over.”

This research is good news for both goat and sheep producers because it could help with eradication efforts. Before U.S. producers can take advantage of import and export markets, scrapie must be eradicated from the United States and meet the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) criteria for disease freedom.

Do you wanna take the risk? Do ya? Raw goat’s milk recalled for E. coli

Anneli Fogt of the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber reports Vashon’s Burton Hill Farm & Dairy is voluntarily recalling its Grade A Raw Goat Milk due to concerns it could be contaminated with E. coli, Washington State Department of Health officials reported.

Vashon's Burton Hill Farm & Dairy
According to the recall notice, the toxin-producing E. coli was found in a milk sample from a batch of goat milk that was not sold to the public. However, it is possible that subsequent batches could contain the harmful bacteria, hence the voluntary recall.

Burton Hill Farm owner Collin Medeiros said on Friday that he has tracked down and informed via phone or email all Vashon customers potentially affected by the recall.

“It’s pretty devastating and really shocking,” Medeiros said. “We will not be selling raw milk until the source and cause of the contamination can be found and completely removed. We are working with Washington State Department of Agriculture and private consultants to do this.”

He said that the problem is likely the farm’s bulk tank where the milk is held, and can be “remedied quickly.”

As of Friday, Medeiros was not aware of any illnesses in connection with the farm’s recalled milk.

Medeiros said the recall has been “a wake-up call” that has him rethinking the farm’s selling of raw milk, which inherently comes with risks and a warning label about the potential for bacterial growth.

“Raw milk is an unstable product. It’s very nutritious for humans, but that also makes it a perfect breeding ground for other living things,” he said. “There is calculated risk for both the consumer and producer, so the question is, do we want to take this risk?”

Q Fever outbreak in Australia linked to goat dairy farm

Landline can now reveal at least 24 people have contracted Q fever during an ongoing outbreak on a Victorian goat dairy farm. While the farm owners and health authorities seem to have stemmed the flow of people falling ill, they have not been able to stop the spread of the disease among the animals. Prue Adams reports.

q.fever.goats.austPRUE ADAMS, REPORTER: There’s a picture perfect quality to this farmland near Ballarat. Lambs at foot, bluestone buildings and at this time of year, golden canola. It’s a region that also boasts one of the biggest dairy goat farms in the country. The only clue to an underlying problem here are the warnings on the front gate.

SANDY CAMERON, GOAT FARM OWNER: The first thing is we’ve had to restrict access to the property, signs up saying “Don’t Enter”. Of course, being in the country, people are fairly used to ignoring signs, so then we – you’ve actually got to try and enforce that.

(Present) When Landline caught up with the Camerons in 1997, they were only producing sheep milk and cheese. Later that year, they got into goats. And now, in addition to milking thousands of sheep, they also milk 5,000 goats twice daily. This is a big enterprise with three dairies and employing 100 staff. Four years ago, some of those employees started getting sick.

SANDY CAMERON: In 2011, we had a few people get Q fever, including our daughter, but we didn’t know it was Q fever. Even though they went to doctors, we didn’t know what was going on. It was late-2012 before one of the staff had it diagnosed as Q fever. In hindsight we realised it was during 2012 was the main incidence of staff being infected.

SIMON FIRESTONE, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE: It was sounding very significant from the start. So historically in Victoria, the Health Department receives notifications of about 30 cases of Q fever a year, and in one week, they’d five notified associated with the one farm property. So, yeah, that was an outbreak. That was clearly an outbreak smacking us in the face.

PRUE ADAMS: In 2013, Dr Simon Firestone, a senior veterinary lecturer at Melbourne University, was one of several authorities notified.

SIMON FIRESTONE: It’s the largest farm-associated outbreak in Australia’s history. So we’ve had large abattoir-associated outbreaks and a large single outbreak where there were 25 cases previously at a saleyard in South Australia in 2004. But, yeah, at 24 cases, this is – this is the largest by far of any of the single farm-associated outbreaks and then, as with all of these, there would be cases that have gone undiagnosed.

‘Doesn’t have all the industrialized stuff in it’ Raw goats milk in Alaska

After we won the hockey final yesterday, several of the parents said to me or Amy, “we didn’t expect that. Our team dominated.”

goats-1-600x450We were up 6-0 before the other team knew what was happening.

On the drive home Amy said, I told them, Doug probably had a plan (which I did). I appear sorta dopey (which is easy), but do the homework and know the game.

And sometimes get lucky.

Watching the raw milk comings-and-goings is something like that.

The majority of producers invoke the gosh-shucks-raw-is-just-natural line, without adding that smallpox is also natural. And E. coli.

The regulators seem lost in this rhetorical garden, portrayed as villains, even though the are relied upon to clean up the mess when things go bad.

Victor Nelson and his wife, Tabitha, have been supplying raw milk from their dairy goats to people in Petersburg, reported KFSK-FM.

The couple raises chickens, pigs and goats on a few acres of land at Point Agassiz, an area across the sound from Petersburg. They’re the only family living out there year-round, surrounded by craggy peaks, cedar trees and glaciers.

“We started with two goats and just for raising quality milk that doesn’t have all that industrialized stuff in it and people kept asking us so we decided to buy a few more and a few more,” said Tabitha Nelson.

They have more than 30 now.

The Nelsons say people go crazy for the fresh milk — “We could never meet the whole demand for Petersburg,” said Tabitha — but there are limitations on how they can sell it.

In Alaska, you can only buy raw dairy products like the Nelsons’ unpasteurized goat milk through a herd share agreement, so the customers in Petersburg are partial owners of the goats.

Unpasteurized dairy products are heavily regulated because they’ve been known to carry disease-causing microorganisms like E. coli. In 2013, a campylobacter outbreak on the Kenai peninsula was linked to raw milk.

Road-side dairy milks goats and sells to passers-by in China

An enterprising couple have been spotted milking goats by the side of the road, before selling bottles of the stuff to passers-by.

Road.side.goat.dairy.chinaThe unnamed pair were selling the fresh produce on a busy road in Xi’an, central China, last Wednesday, reported the People’s Daily Online

The couple used empty 500ml water bottles to collect the milk straight from the udder. It was then sold to waiting customers for 10 Yuan (£1) per bottle.

Some experts have raised concerns about the safety of the milk as unpasteurised dairy may contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli.


Kidding around with St. Louis goats- how to inform the public about petting zoo dangers

I find it physically impossible for me to get enough animal interaction. I suppose that means I must’ve chosen the right profession: Veterinary Medicine. I’m a frequent patron of Sunset Zoo here in Manhattan, Kansas, but during my last visit I was sad to learn that the petting zoo area was sectioned off from the public. Zoo patrons are still able to go up to the fence to pet the goats, but they can no longer walk amongst them in their enclosure. I have no idea if this change had to do with any of the recent petting zoo outbreaks, but I suppose it’s a step in the right direction for public health.

 I still love going to petting zoos, though they have quite a bad rap these days. The most memorable petting zoo outbreak that comes to mind is of the E. coli O157 outbreak at the Godstone Farm petting zoo that sickened 93.
The large number of sick kids resulted from a combination of poor food safety information and slow reporting by health officials. There are quite a lot of petting zoos that do things wrong, such as not providing access to handwashing stations after animal interaction. This past weekend I visited a petting zoo in St. Louis, and I was pleased to see some food safety signs posted outside the gate of the animal area and also by the handwashing station right next to the animals.
The petting zoo I visited was inside of http://www.grantsfarm.com, a historic plot of land within St. Louis formerly owned by Gen. Grant and currently operated by the Busch family. The petting zoo was entirely made up of goats, and for a few dollars patrons could purchase a baby bottle full of milk to feed to the goats. The handwashing stations with soap and water right next to the exits satisfied my public health concerns. However, I would’ve been happier with paper towels for drying rather than the hand dryers that were available.
I was also happy about the signs posted around the petting zoo that read,
In accordance with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we provide hand washing stations, antibacterial soap, warm water, and air hand dryers for visitors to our animal interaction areas. Additionally, petting brushes are available to reduce hand contact with the animals.
Posted below was,
Pregnant women, senior citizens and immunocompromised persons are at higher risk of serious infections. When contacting animals, Grant’s Farm suggests heightened precautions, and children under 5 years be closely supervised.
Of course these signs were nice to have around, but it doesn’t mean anything if parents don’t read them. Unfortunately I saw quite a few kids with their hands in their mouths inside the petting enclosure. I think Grant’s Farm did a good job of informing the public of the risks while still encouraging people to pet the animals. The petting brushes are a germ-a-phobe’s dream, though I didn’t use one.
All in all, the kids had a blast and the goats were fed. And now I have 52 pictures of goats on my camera.