Adding Animals To The Herd

Springtime is when many 4-H and FFA families add new cattle, pigs, horses, and other animals to their farms. It also means potentially bringing home new diseases.

Katie Ockert is a 4-H animal science educator at Michigan State University. She says before you make the purchase, check the animal to see that it’s healthy and in good shape, and ask the owner for health records.

"I always recommend to ask that you get a history of vaccinations, and then also a herd health overview, any issues that that particular farm may have had within their entire herd within the past year or two because those are things that you’ll want to look at," says Ockert. "And, you have the option to always do a veterinary pre-purchase exam."

When you get your new animals home, Ockert recommends a quarantine, or separation from your home herd for 30-days.

"In that 30 days, you’ll be able to monitor behavior so you can decide where that animal appropriately fits in the herd that you already have," she says. "You’ll be able to identify if they are symptomatic of anything and be able to treat them accordingly. And, you’ll get a feel for that animal’s “personality”, what their disposition is like."

If you don’t have the facilities to provide a separate area for them, she says to do your best to prevent nose-to-nose contact with the other animals during the quarantine. When you’re doing chores, always tend to the new animals last. This will help prevent human cross-contamination of any pathogens.

Here's more information on good biosecurity practices to protect both new animals and the existing herd