June 2009 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 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 Unversity, reports that one recent research study indicated that stomach worm larvae were found farther up blades of grass than previously thought.

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.

Frequency of deworming ("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 wormers 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™.

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 with dairy influence (including Boers and Boer-crosses) need to be dewormed with a *white* dewormer like Safeguard/Panacur or Valbazen to get tapeworms. However, Tennessee Meat Goats™ and TexMasters™ have consistently responded well to the 1% Ivermectin given orally.

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 1000 goats, and while FAMACHA is used every time a goat is handled for any reason, it isn't possible to keep up with individual deworming schedules on such a large number of goats. Therefore, everyone is dewormed every six months while susceptible goats 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 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 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.

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 hybernation) 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 there on the grasses just waiting 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 (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 goat vet or a producer with extensive experience in raising goats before administering medications of any type to your goats

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 (Tramisol, Levamasole).

4) Amino-Acitonitrile Derivatives (AAD) -- This new class of dewormer, which has been developed by Norvartis and marketed under the name Zolvix(tm), 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. For these reasons, do not use dewormers as back drenches on goats. Back drenching goats with anthelmentics has been proven to be both undesirable and ineffective.

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 an almost religious fervor, please do both yourself and your goats a favor and also use an ethical dewormer from the list 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 dewormer 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 easiest 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 syringe. 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.

If you are injecting deworming medication (the relatively new Cydectin injectable, for example), make sure to have a bottle of Epinephrine (vet prescription) on hand for use if the goat goes into shock. You only have seconds to save an animal in shock.

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.

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 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 usually 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. The adults' product is too strong and dangerous to use on kids. Take care to cover the kid's eyes, ears, nose, and other mucous membranes. Jeffers (use link below to go to 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.

Overeating/Tetanus Vaccinations:
Here we have products actually made for goats! CD/T is a combination vaccine which provides long-term protection against Overeating Disease (Enterotoxemia) and Tetanus. Colorado Serum makes a CD/T vaccine called Essential 3+T which does not cause injection site abscesses. Jeffers carries it.

Kids should be given their first Essential 3+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 up and running. 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 weight, size, sex, breed, religion, race, or national origin. A booster vaccination (also 2 cc's SQ) must be given in three to four weeks. So plan on giving the second Essential 3 +T vaccination when the kid is two months old. All adult goats brought anew to your property should receive the two-shot series of Essential 3+T. Don't assume that the previous owner used it.

If using a brand other than Colorado Serum's Essential 3+T, don't be surprised if a lump develops at the injection site. This is the immune system's reaction to the vaccine and means it is working; ' however, an injection site abscess does not have to appear to prove the vaccine's effectiveness. Sometimes this lump goes away and other times it remains. Use the Colorado Serum brand and avoid this entirely.

Every goat must receive an annual Essential 3+T booster injection of 2 cc's SQ to renew the protection afforded against Overeating Disease and Tetanus. Some producers chose to boost this vaccine every six months. Pregnant does should get an Essential 3+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 Colorado Serum's Mannheimia Haemolytica-Pasteurella Multocedia Bacterin vaccine. Inject SQ two cc's (2 cc's) at one month of age and repeat in two to four weeks. Goats added to the producer's herd, kids or adults, should receive the two-shot immunization to insure adequate protection.

At Onion Creek Ranch, we vaccinate for both overeating disease/tetanus and pneumonia at one month and again at two months of age, giving the injections on opposite sides of the body SQ over the ribs with a 22 gauge needle.

Most medications have a statement on the label recommending that they be used in their entirety once opened. This is not necessarily true and is the manufacturer's way of protecting itself from liability. To prevent contamination of the bottle's contents, put a single needle into the bottle and change syringes and needles each time medication is drawn.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto


We recommend purchasing Colorado Serum vaccines and products through Jeffers Livestock. Click the Jeffers ad banner above to visit the website.




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