July 2013 Issue



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Goats as a species are very susceptible to internal parasites, especially stomach worms. In parts of the United States that are warm and wet, the stomach worm to be concerned about is Haemonchus contortus, also known as the Barberpole worm. This worm feeds on blood; if untreated, it causes anemia and death. Infection reaches highest levels in summer. In cold climates, the brown stomach worm causes diarrhea, ill thrift (the goat does poorly) and, if untreated, death.

Goats are browsers/foragers -- like deer. They need to eat "from the top down" to protect themselves from internal parasites. If goats are forced to graze grasses like cattle and sheep, they will ingest stomach worms. Goats have the fastest metabolisms of all ruminants (except deer) and are picky eaters; they like the newest, tenderest, and most most nutritious plant materials -- the ones growing closest to the ground where the worms are. Dr. Jim Miller, ruminant parisitologist at Louisiana State University, reports that one recent research study indicated that stomach worm larvae were found farther up blades of grass than previously thought.

Frequency of deworming (sometimes incorrectly called "worming," in goat producers' vernacular) depends upon the wetness/dryness of the area, population density in pens and pasture, when does are scheduled to kid, overall health of the goats, and a host of other things. The number of goats that a producer can run on a given parcel of land is NOT based upon available plant materials but rather on how well the wormload can be controlled. Goats as a species are dry-land animals. Areas with higher than 30 inches of annual rainfall present major challenges to a producer who is trying to raise healthy goats.

This article will describe how deworming and vaccinations are done at Onion Creek Ranch near Lohn, Texas, where average annual rainfall is 20 inches or less in a normal year. This is a breeding stock operation, so management is more intensive than that of the average commercial goat ranch. This program may or may not work in other areas but will give producers information that should be useful.

The first line of defense against stomach worms is the use of the FAMACHA field examination. Note that FAMACHA only works for anemia-producing infections and the primary anemia producer is Haemonchus contortus. FAMACHA provides the producer with a method of visually observing signs of anemia in a goat. FAMACHA training and certification are available from Dr. Jim Miller at GoatCamp™ every October at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas and at other locations around the USA throughout the year. It should be used as one of multiple tools for monitoring stomach worm infestation. Occasionally FAMACHA can be misleading; a minority of goats who are perfectly healthy also have light pink to white eye membranes, but they are the exception to FAMACHA's usefulness. Producers should make every effort to attend FAMACHA training to learn the intricacies of using FAMACHA in-field exams on goats.

An over-simplified explanation of FAMACHA is that the producer examines the inner lower eye membrane (not the mouth's gums) for coloration. Red to bright pink membranes indicate a very low wormload, pink to light pink reflects the need to do further testing and de-worming, and white means anemia exists and the goat needs immediate medical attention. FAMACHA can also indicate anemia that is the result of liver flukes, so the producer should collect fecal samples both in specific goats with white to pink eye membranes and randomly in apparently healthy goats for verification of actual worm loads. Performing your own fecals can save money on dewormers by revealing to the producer when it is time to deworm. Random routine fecal examinations may stretch the time between wormings. There is an article entitled "How To Do Your Own Fecals" on the Articles Page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com and this procedure is also taught at every GoatCamp.™

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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The dewormer of choice at Onion Creek Ranch since January 1990 has been 1% Ivermectin injectable given orally at a rate of one cc per 50 pounds bodyweight (1 cc per 50 lbs.). Occasionally goats also need to be dewormed with a *white* dewormer like Safeguard/Panacur or Valbazen to get tapeworms. Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ have consistently responded well to the 1% Ivermectin given orally; I seldom have to use a "white" dewormer on any goat other than weanling kids.

Current research indicates that goats in most herds should be examined by FAMACHA testing and dewormed as needed on an individual basis. Onion Creek Ranch runs close to 450 goats, and while FAMACHA is used every time a goat is handled for any reason, it isn't realistic to keep up with individual deworming schedules on such a large number of goats. Therefore, everyone is dewormed every six months (annually during droughts) while stressed goats (lactating does with multiple kids, for example) are individually treated throughout the year as needed.

DO NOT ROTATE DEWORMERS. Use one dewormer until it quits working, then change to another family of dewormers. As a general rule, the white-colored dewormers (Safeguard/Panacur and Valbazen) no longer kill stomach worms in most areas of the United States. In wet areas, producers may get a better response from deworming by fasting the goats (take them off grain and hay but not off water) for at least 12 hours before deworming. Using a contrast-colored PaintStik crayon (hot pink and fluorescent green show up well), mark the forehead or horns of each goat as deworming progresses so that animals are not medicated multiple times. This also saves money, as anthelmintics (dewormers) are expensive. Keep the animals in the same pen/pasture for up to 24 hours because they will be sloughing worms in their feces -- then move them to a fresh clean pen/pasture. However, under many circumstances, freshly dewormed goats that were heavily infested with worms should not be moved to new pasture because whatever worms they have retained are resistant to the dewormer that was used, resulting in contaminating the fresh pasture with resistant worms. The producer obviously does not want a clean pasture full of resistant worms. These choices are something that each producer has to learn to deal with as it applies to the specific goat-raising operation.

This is where the concept of refugia comes into play. This can be a tough concept to wrap your mind around; it can be confusing to me. The term refugia refers to worm larvae still in the pastures that remain susceptible to dewormers. In other words, refugia are worms that can still be killed by dewormers. Producers should want to retain as many worms in refugia as possible so that when they deworm their goats, the dewormer used will kill a large number of stomach worms and hopefully these worms will produce more susceptible worms. To do that, producers have to do the following:

1) Use The FAMACHA field test every time goats are handled.

2) Deworm goats individually and only as necessary.

3) Cull all goats that display susceptibility to worms (assuming that they aren't overcrowded and living in filthy conditions).

4) Select goats that display tolerance or resistance to worms. No breed is resistant to worms but there are individuals within breeds that can be selected for worm resistance.

New deworming drugs are the only way the stay ahead of the game, and new dewormers are not in the pipeline.

Kids are dewormed the first time at one month of age at Onion Creek Ranch. Deworming kids at an earlier age won't hurt them, but it is a waste of time and money, because they don't begin to eat significant amounts of solid food until they are about three weeks old. Kids become infected with stomach worms as they graze the ground for plant materials and pick up infected goat pills as they "mouth" everything in sight. Worms can live in a state of hypobiosis (a sort of hibernation) inside the pregnant dam. The dam's birthing process wakes them up and starts their three-week life cycle. When the young kids are first beginning to eat solid foods, the worms are waiting on the grass blades for the kids to ingest them.

Dewormer dosages should be calculated carefully. Some dewormers can be double- or tripled-dosed without problem, but others have a very narrow margin of safety. Levamasole (Prohibit, Tramisol) has a very narrow margin of safety. The difference between the effective dose and the toxic dose is very small. The premise that "more is better" is not correct with medications. Always consult a knowledgeable producer with extensive experience in raising goats or a qualified goat vet before administering medications of any kind to your goat.

There are now four classes of dewormers:

1) Avermectins (Ivermectin) the "clear" de-wormers; Dectomax and Cydectin are in this category.

2) Benzimidazoles (Valbazen, Safeguard, Panacur, Telmin, Synanthic, Benzelmin, Anthelcide, TBZ): the "white" dewormers,Warning: Do not de-worm pregnant does with Valbazen. It can cause abortions.

3) Imidothiazole (Prohibit, Tramisole, Levamasole).

4) Amino-Acitonitrile Derivatives (AAD) -- This new class of dewormer, which has been developed by Norvartis and marketed under the name Zolvix™, is currently on the market for sheep in New Zealand and is not available in the US. When or if it might be available in the US is anyone's guess.

Goats have thin hides (relative to other ruminants, such as cattle) and very fast metabolisms. NEVER use dewormers as back drenches on goats. Back drenching goats with anthelmentics is both dangerous and ineffective. Always deworm orally, even with those dewormers that say 'injectable' in the packaging.

Diatomaceous Earth is currently a popular product which some people believe acts as a dewormer. As of this date, every study which has been done on the de-worming efficacy of DE has proven that it is not effective against internal parasites. If you are one of those people who believe in DE with a religious fervor, help protect your goats by using a chemical dewormer from the list of dewormer classes above. It may be that DE will allow longer stretches between deworming. Until a controlled study proves DE's effectiveness against internal parasites, do not rely on it solely to keep your goats dewormed.

Deworming feed additives and deworming blocks are available to be purchased. Unless the producer has the ability to feed each goat individually every day, do not use these products. The producer has no assurance of each goat's having received an adequate dosage of deworming medication. The least aggressive animal -- the one least likely to go to the deworming block or fight for feed containing deworming additives -- is usually the one who needs it most. So take the time to measure the medication and give it to each animal individually.

The best way to give oral deworming medication to a goat is to draw it into a syringe, remove the needle, straddle the goat (facing the same direction as the goat), lock your legs around its middle and place your feet in front of its back hooves, open the mouth with one hand (watch those back teeth), put the syringe into the side of the mouth and over the back of the tongue, and push the plunger. If you used feed to entice the goats in order to catch them , make sure it has been chewed and swallowed first, or expensive dewormer mixed with feed is going to fall from the goat's mouth onto the ground. For orally deworming large numbers of goats, Jeffers sells a 20 ml dosing syringe made by Syrvet (item # SP-D1) that the nozzle doesn't fall off and is a major time saver.Gel-type wormers generally come in tubes dosage-calibrated for large animals like horses. They are difficult to measure in small enough amounts for goats and are therefore wasteful of time and money.

Copper and Stomach Worms - Because I cannot put this information more succinctly than Dr. Jim Miller of Louisiana State University, here is what renowned parasitologist Dr. Miller has to say about copper and stomach worms.

"Copper had been used for control of Haemonchus (only) a long time ago (pre-modern anthelmintic times) in sheep, but it was not 100% and if you gave too much or multiple treatments, sheep would die of toxicity (copper accumulates in liver and causes liver failure). The copper oxide wire particles we use today are marketed for copper supplementation (not worm control), but extensive research has shown that the particles do eliminate the majority of Haemonchus too. The particles are administered in capsules or mixed in feed and are distributed throughout the GI tract. In the abomasum, they adhere to the mucosa and in the acidic environment, copper ions are released and interact with the worms, and the worms are eliminated. The mechanism of action has not been definitely established, but one of my students has seen some physical damage on the cuticle (electron microscopy) which could cause disruption of the worm's ability to maintain their position and thus be eliminated. Copper oxide wire particles can be used to control Haemonchus only. We use them at 1 gram for youngsters and 2 grams for adults. In all scientific studies I have seen, there has been no indication of copper toxicity in goats such as we can see in sheep. But there have been a couple of field reports of toxicity if administered more than needed. We don't recommend using it exclusively, but on occasion when Haemonchus doesn't respond to anthelmintic treatment, or to replace an anthelmintic treatment sometimes. It is always best to establish if copper deficiency is present and then this form of copper supplementation would be good for that. Since it is not a drug, it is more "friendly" and natural if used judiciously."

External Parasites:

The most common external parasite is lice. Lice are prevalent during cool weather. If goats have been treated for worms and verified through fecal counts as having tolerable worm loads but they still have rough coats, then the goats probably have lice. Lice infestation tends to look like a goat has had a bad haircut. Lice come in two types: blood-suckers and non-blood-suckers. Blood-sucking lice are the most dangerous, putting the goat into an anemic condition which can result in death. Lice nits look like grains of white rice in the hair coat. Regardless of type of lice, buy a product like Synergized De-Lice or Cylence and apply it topically on the back of the goat from base of neck to base of tail. Follow the directions carefully. The dosage is quite small and should be repeated in one to two weeks. For kids under three months of age and pregnant does, use a kitten-safe or puppy-safe flea powder or spray or Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Cover the kid's eyes, ears, nose, and other mucous membranes. Jeffers carries topical delice products.Ticks are another external parasite prevalent in some areas of the USA. Use 5% Sevin Dust topically on adults and Sevin Dust cut with an equal amount of diatomaceous earth (DE) on kids and pregnant does. Mites tend to infest goats during droughts, winter or summer. I have an article on how to treat for mites on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. I lean towards using NuStock paste in a tube (Jeffers carries it) but I cite other medications that also work in my article. Mites infesting scrotums can cause temporary sterility by raising the body temperature surrounding the buck's testicles.

Overeating/Tetanus Vaccinations:

These are products actually made for goats! CD/T is a combination vaccine which provides long-term protection against Overeating Disease (Enterotoxemia) and Tetanus. Several companies made CD/T vaccines for goats and Jeffers carries them.

I give kids their first CD/T vaccination at one month of age. This is shortly after they have begun to eat solid food, their rumen has started to develop, the milk stomach has begun to shrink, and the immune system is beginning to develop. This vaccination can be given earlier, but it is not likely to be helpful, and thus a waste of money. Give each kid two cc's (2 cc's) sub-cutaneously (SQ -- under the skin). This is one of the few medications which dosage is the same regardless of goat's age, weight, sex, or breed. A booster vaccination (also 2 cc's SQ) must be given in three to four weeks. I give the second CD/T vaccination when the kid is two months old. All adult goats brought anew to your property should immediately receive the two-shot series of CD/T. Don't assume that the previous owner vaccinated them.

Every goat must receive an annual CD/T booster injection of 2 cc's SQ to renew protection against Overeating Disease and Tetanus. Some producers also boost this vaccine every six months. Pregnant does should get a CD/T booster four to five weeks before they are due to kid. This vaccine must be kept refrigerated and it freezes at very high temperatures, so in winter, the producer may need to turn the temperature control on the medicine refrigerator "up" to avoid freezing. Do not use it if it has frozen in the bottle. When using the bottle in the field, use a cooler with an icepack.

Pneumonia vaccinations:

The two most common killers of goats are worms and pneumonia. Vaccinate against the most common forms of pneumonia using Poly Bac B Somnus pneumonia vaccine by Texas Vet Lab or Presponse by Boehringer Ingelheim if the Texas Vet Lab vaccine is not available in your area. (Jeffers carries both.) Inject SQ one cc (1 cc) at one month of age for kids 60 pounds or less and dose at 2 cc's for goats weighing more than 60 pounds. Repeat in two to four weeks. Goats purchased and added to your herd, both kids and adults, should receive the two-shot immunization to insure adequate protection. Use an 18 gauge needle, as these are thick liquids. Use an icepack when using the bottle in the field in warm weather as these vaccines are temperature sensitive.

Most Vaccines have a statement on the label recommending that they be used in their entirety once opened. This is a manufacturer's statement intended to limit legal liability. To prevent contamination of the bottle's contents, put and leave a single needle into the bottle while in use and change syringes and needles each time medication is drawn. Then refrigerate the bottle containing unused vaccine immediately after use.

Caseous Lymphadenitis Vaccinations:

I vaccinate all goats against CL. I vaccinate kids no sooner than four to six months of age, and I do *not* vaccinate them against any other disease at the same time. I give the two-shot initial vaccination series 21 to 30 days apart, although the bottle directions state less time in between shots. The CL bacteria is a very unusual organism and, as such, the vaccine is somewhat "harsh" in that some goats have reactions to it. I vaccinate adults before I breed them. I do not vaccinate bred does although I am told by other producers that they have not experienced problems vaccinating bred does. All goats must receive an annual booster vaccination.

Some swelling at the injection site can be expected. The knot should be firm (not soft). If it is soft, it could be a knot caused by bacteria on the needle or on the surface of the skin and may need to be drained. Do not inject Formalin into these knots. These knots are called vaccine granulomas and arise as a result of the goat's immune response to the vaccine. The adjuvant (vaccine's carrier) and the antigen (active ingredient) are recognized as foreign bodies by the goat's immune system and an inflammatory response occurs at the injection site. They usually resolve themselves over time and that timeframe is often dependent upon the size of the granuloma. If the goat is going to slaughter, the granuloma will come off with the hide. If the goat is breeding stock and you as a producer want it gone, lance and drain and flush with iodine. It is likely a sterile abscess, staph, or arcanobacterium pyogenes.

When administering the Texas Vet Lab vaccine to protect against Caseous Lymphadenitis, use an 18 gauge needle. Taking the chill of refrigeration off the vaccine by removing the bottle from the refrigerator and leaving it in a climate-controlled environment for a short time increases the syringeability of it. It flows through the syringe more easily and it is less of a shock to the goat's body than the injection of a cold liquid. Make sure to give the vaccine sub-cutaneously (SQ) (under the skin). Vaccinate all non-pregnant and non-lactating goats, including those testing positive for CL and all goats with visible abscesses.

USDA labeling does not permit the claim that the vaccine prevents the disease. No vaccine prevents disease in 100% of the population to which it is targeted. Wording like "aids in the reduction of," "aids in the control of," "aids in the reduction of severity," or "aids in the reduction of infection or shedding" are label requirements. This label wording should not deter you as a responsible producer from using the only CL vaccine available and approved for use with goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto ONION CREEK RANCH Texas 7/12/13




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