December 2018 Issue



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Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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Basics to Raising Goats

Managing what they poop and eat is the key to raising healthy goats. No exaggeration.

Monitoring feces reveals wormload. The biggest enemy of goats is stomach worms; almost vampire-like, they suck blood, cause anemia, and kill the goat. Life threatening is the best way to describe what stomach worms are to goats. Stomach worms literally cause the goats to lose blood volume and die.

Think of goats as deer. Never over-crowd goats. If you think you can put 5 or 10 goats on an acre of land, ask yourself if you could do that with deer. The answer is NO. Goats need space to roam over, eating "from the top down" to avoid ground-level stomach worms. They also need have enough space among herd members to minimize access to poop that contains stomach worms.

WET = WORMS. Much of the USA is too wet to raise goats successfully. The heavily vegetative areas along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard are exactly where major concentrations of Haemonchus contortus, the barberpole stomach worm, thrive. But these areas are not the only areas where raising goats is difficult. All goats, regardless of breed, are dry-land animals. Twenty (20) inches of rain a year can be too much for goats unless you've kept your population density low, have lots of acreage (no more than two goats per acre and sometimes less), and monitor fecal counts under a microscope on a monthly basis.

There is no breed of goat that is resistant to worms, despite some breed advertising making such claims. Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm) always has the advantage. Do not depend upon FAMACHA. While it can be a decent Field Test for monitoring wormloads, it does not reflect those worms in the goat that have not yet hatched out and started consuming blood. Fecal counts done under a microscope are best tool.


I get an average of six (6) calls per day from people with goat-health problems. Ninety-nine percent of them think they are dealing with some exotic disease. After 20 minutes of questions, I find that their goats are severely wormy. "What's the dosage for LA 200?" My questions reveal wormy goats. "My vet says my goat has goat polio." My questions ultimately reveal wormy goats. Just because you gave a dewormer does NOT mean that it worked. Most dewormers have been so overused that they don't work any longer. The white-colored dewormers (Safeguard, Panacur, Valbazen) don't kill stomach worms in 99% of the USA .

With goats, it is almost always the simplest thing. The simplest thing is stomach worms. They are also the most deadly.

Read my articles on How To Do Your Own Fecals on the Articles page at Buy the recommended MSK-01 microscope with moveable stage, fecal floatation solution, McMasters slides, and other basic supplies, and start doing your own fecals every month on a random basis. Learn how to manage poop and you have a fighting chance to stay ahead of blood-sucking worms.

Read my articles on Deworming and on Anemia so you know what to do and when.


Feeding the Rumen, Not the Goat.

Many goat health problems are rumen based. Overeating disease, diarrhea, toxicity (plant, mineral, hay, or grain), listeriosis, goat polio, pregnancy toxemia, ketosis, floppy kid syndrome, laminitis/founder, ruminal acidosis, bloat, and even side effects of antibiotic therapy are examples.

Located on the goat's left side, the rumen manufactures nutrients by using live bacteria (microbes) to convert food matter into nutrition. Working much like a living compost pile or fermentation vat (and smelling like it), the rumen begins breaking down food using live bacteria as soon as the goat swallows it. Whatever the goat eats goes directly into the rumen, one of four stomachs (rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum), each of which has a specialized function. Goats eat by foraging for several hours, then while resting, regurgitating a chunk of cud (partially digested food) and chewing it. Ilf the pH of the rumen becomes acidic (it should be slightly alkaline at about 7.2), the goat can get sick and die. What and how much the goat eats is critical to its overall health. The rumen must be properly fed to keep the live bacteria healthy and active. If the microbes are used up or compromised, undigested food turns toxic and the goat can die.

Most people's concept of goats is 180* out of sync with reality. They think goats can eat anything. Totally untrue. Goats are very picky eaters. They have to be. Because of their rapid digestive system, many plant materials are literally not digestible and therefore are toxic to goats. The slower rumen motility of cattle, for example, permits their bodies to utilize plant materials that are coarse and high in lignin (indigestible fiber) that goats cannot digest. See my articles on rumen toxicity on

Listen to the rumen's "growling" sounds. A goat with a healthy rumen has terrible breath. Press your hand to the left side of the goat's body to feel rumen movement. Learn the recognize the sounds of a healthy rumen versus that of a goat who is grinding its teeth in pain.

What a goat eats determines its overall health. A goat out on forage is, all other things being equal, going to be healthier than a goat kept penned and fed. Intensive management lends itself to health problems. Goats cannot be "feed-lotted" like cattle. Goats live, eat, and move across their environment like DEER.

It is truly a garbage in, garbage out situation. You are feeding a rumen, not a goat.

Manage INTAKE (food) and monitor OUTPUT (poop) to have healthy goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 12/1/18



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