July 2011 Issue

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STOMACH WORMS
Resistance - Tolerance - Susceptibility

Goat producers of all breeds are in a continuing battle with internal parasites -- primarily the barberpole stomach worm (Haemonchus contortus). This article will outline the management procedures that must be implemented to control barberpole stomach worms in a meat goat herd.

Stomach worms are a major life-threatening condition in goats because Haemonchus contortus worms suck blood, destroying red blood cells and causing severe anemia. A heavy stomach wormload can and does cause anemia. Severe anemia kills goats. Until the goat is at death's door, it will continue to eat and eat and eat . . . and still lose weight because of the damage caused by the barberpole stomach worm. Simple deworming will not cure an anemic goat. See my articles on Anemia on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Do not randomly choose a dewormer and don't take anyone's advice on which dewormer to use. Get fecal counts done by a vet to find out which worms are present and what their load count is in your goats. You need to know the enemy you are fighting. All goats have worms of some type and in some quantity. Their existence is necessary to stimulate the goat's immune system to fight them. If you want to do fecal counts yourself, that's fine -- but get fecal counts done by a veterinary professional with whom you can compare results. This diagnosis is too important to leave to a producer inexperienced in performing fecals. The FAMACHA** field test is a visual check of the inner lower eye membrane color and should be done in conjunction with microscopic fecal counts. These two tests work well together to give the producer a good idea of the goats' wormloads. Never rely solely on FAMACHA results. Dr. Jim Miller, parasitologist at Louisiana State University, gives FAMACHA training and certification at GoatCamp™ at Onion Creek Ranch each October.

Once the worms are identified, choose the correct dewormer and use it until it quits working. Do not rotate dewormers. I repeat: DO NOT ROTATE DEWORMERS. Use the FAMACHA field test every time a goat is handled for any reason. Remember that the FAMACHA field test is only good for identifying the H. contortus stomach worm, and in some parts of the USA, other worms like the brown stomach worm can cause substantial production losses without causing anemia and death, making FAMACHA of limited value. Continue to do fecal counts at regular intervals.

Most dewormers used with goats are "off-label," i.e. the manufacturer has not spent the time, money, and effort to test the dewormer for effectiveness, proper dosing, and withdrawal times and obtain government approval to label the product for use in goats. Just because a dewormer has been approved for use with goats does not mean that it will work in your herd. Safeguard/Panacur has been approved for use with goats, but in many if not most locations in the USA, this product no longer kills stomach worms. Morantel tartrate, a feed-based dewormer, has also been approved for use with goats. Experience has taught me that feed-based dewormers are not effective in anything other than very small herds because the goat needing the medication the worst will also be the lowest in the pecking order and will get the least amount of medicated feed. To insure accurate dosing of each animal, goats need to be individually orally drenched with a weight-appropriate amount of dewormer. This same reasoning applies to medications put into water for liquid consumption. Back drenches, also known as pour-ons, are not very effective with goats because of the hide structure of the species; back drenching to kill internal parasites is not recommended.

Goats are dry-land animals that are very susceptible to barberpole stomach worms. Think of them as "first cousins" to deer in how they live, eat, and need to roam over acreage. They instinctively eat "from the top down" like deer. Goats made to graze on pasture will get infected with barberpole stomach worms, especially on short pasture. The latest data from ruminant parasitologists is that any time a goat eats within EIGHT INCHES of the ground, stomach worms are waiting for them. Do not think that tall grasses will not harbor stomach worms. Goats won't eat the tall grasses but instead will search for the newest and most tender sprigs which are closest to the ground because they are the most nutritious and easiest to digest. Unfortunately these new sprigs are also closest to the stomach worms.

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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There is much discussion nowadays regarding the level of resistance, tolerance, and susceptibility to worms by different meat-goat breeds. Resistance refers to goats that have fewer worms than others and survive. True resistance should be genetically set. Dr. Jim Miller, parasitologist at Louisiana State University, told me that he knows of no scientific documentation proving any breed of goats to be genetically resistant to worms. This does not mean that no such breeds exist, but at this point in time none have been documented.

Tolerance describes goats that harbor in their bodies a worm level that kills susceptible animals; they tolerate the worm infection. Susceptible goats need to be culled and sent to slaughter.

Important: Goats that are tolerant of worms are not tolerant of every type of worm nor do they automatically carry that tolerance from one location to another. Repeat: Goats that are tolerant of worms are not tolerant of every type of worm nor do they automatically carry that tolerance from one location to another.

Tolerance is only against the worms that goats have been exposed to in their natural habitat. If that environment changes and different worms are introduced or if the goats are moved into a different worm's territory, tolerance can and may change.

Producers must recognize that conditions change on the same property from month to month, year to year, and even from pasture to pasture in the same time frame. Regularly scheduled fecal counts are critical to keeping informed about what is going on worm-wise with goats.

A-D-A-P-T-A-B-I-L-I-T-Y. Ignore adaptability to your goats' peril. When moved, goats need time (months, not days or weeks, and sometimes longer) to adapt to the bacteria, viruses, worms, cocci, and other organisms that inhabit their new home. This is true of every goat that is moved, whether it be a breeding buck, doe, or kids. Bucks moved into field performance tests need at least six months and sometimes longer, depending upon the time of year they are moved and the differences between their old location and their new one, to adapt to their new environment and to develop antibodies that keep them healthy and able to compete on a reasonably equal basis. Bucks who have lived in the area that the field performance test is being conducted have an enormous "home field advantage" because they have already adapted.

Do not move pregnant does under any circumstances. Kids born at the new location will have no protection via the mother's milk from the new organisms because the doe will not have had time to develop immunities to these "bugs" before her kids are born. In 2000, I moved only 125 miles from Buda, Texas to Lohn, Texas and bred the does within 90 days of arrival. The results were disastrous. An abortion organism acquired at the new location infected many of the does. My very first goat OCR Billie and her first-born daughter OCR Bonnie died, in addition to other dams and multiple kids. Forty-five (45) weak kids were born that were too weak to stand and had to be bottled in order to be saved. Many kids died. No livestock of any kind had been on this property for years. It was a tragic and expensive experience which could easily have been avoided had breeding been put off for six to twelve months while the goats' immune systems adapted to the new location. Goats, like deer, stress easily when moved. Do not make it more difficult by putting demands upon their immune systems by insisting on immediate breeding.

Cull poor performers in every generation, whether they are susceptible to worms or other infections or whether the goats have poor conformation. It is amazing what some producers consider to be a good meat goat. Culling never goes out of style, regardless of how long the producer has been raising goats.

Proper management will go a long way towards raising healthy goats. Too many goats on too small acreage is a recipe for a parasite disaster. The number of goats that can be run on a given piece of land is determined primarily by how well the parasite load can be controlled and not by the amount of plant material available for the goats to eat. The producer should start out with a very small number of goats, culling in every generation and selecting for tolerance for worms. Slowly increase the number of goats in the herd. With early sexual maturity, short gestation, and multiple births, goats reproduce very fast. It is easy to get over-populated in a short period of time. Running cattle behind goats in pasture rotation can help control the worm load.

Do not succumb to advertising that a certain breed is resistant to or more tolerant of worms than any other breed. This has not been scientifically proven. All breeds can be made "wormy" through bad management, overcrowding, and environmental conditions favoring worms.

My thanks to Dr. Jim Miller, parasitologist at Louisiana State University, for his input and verification for accuracy of statements made in this article.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto

ONION CREEK RANCH
7/11/11

**FAMACHA is a hands-on field test for the barberpole stomach worm developed by South African goat raisers. See the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com for information on how this system works.

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WHEN MEAT MATTERS...

These yearling TexMaster™ bucks are $650.00 each at
Onion Creek Ranch

Contact Suzanne Gasparotto at
325-344-5775 for prices and availability.

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Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ are usually available year round. Contact us for ages and pricing by calling 325-344-5775 or emailing onioncreek@tennesseemeatgoats.com

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