June 2017 Issue



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Across most of the USA, Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm) is the primary internal parasite causing illness and death in goats. This worm has a short life cycle producing many generations per year, sucks blood causing anemia, and kills goats. Note: Coccicidiosis, another internal parasite, is a protozoan, and does not respond to dewormers but requires a completely different medication.

All dewormers used with goats must be given orally. No over-the-back pour-ons and no injections.

FAMACHA is a valuable field test only. Do not rely on it as a first or only line of defense. The color of the inner lower eye membrane reveals only those stomach worms that are already sucking blood and causing anemia. FAMACHA does not tell you how many worms are in the goat that haven't yet developed to begin sucking blood. Microscopic fecal egg counts are essential.

Do not rotate dewormers. Use one dewormer until it quits working, then change to another class of dewormer.

The white-colored dewormers (Safeguard/Panacur, Valbazen) don't kill blood-sucking stomach worms in most of the USA any more. Vets will recommend them because of short withdrawal time in meat and milk residue, but that is irrelevant if the goat died from worms. The "white" dewormers do kill tapeworms, but these worms do not suck blood. In some parts of the USA, the 'mectins (Ivomec and Cydectin) are no longer effective against stomach worms. Doing fecals is critical to finding out exactly what is going on.

Don't use feed-based dewormers or dewormers that you top-dress on feed or "organic" or "all-natural" or "homeopathic" dewormer with goats. Some folks want to believe it, so companies sell them, but goats must be dewormed with ethical dewormers made by pharmaceutical companies to keep goats healthy. Goats have a strict pecking order. The goat needing deworming the most will be the one who gets the least amount to eat.

Accurately dose dewormers. Under-dosing or over-dosing allows worms to survive the dewormer. Everything we use for goats is off-label, so you must learn accurate dosing from a knowledgeable source. Proper usage and storage of a dewormer affects its effectiveness.

Use "Smart Drench" techniques. Only deworm goats in need of treatment. Use FAMACHA, fecal egg count, and clinical signs of infection (bottlejaw, rough hair coat, depression, off feed, diarrhea, etc) to identify infected goats. Use a drenching nozzle (not an injection syringe) to place the dewormer dose over the back of the tongue. Dewormer deposited in the front of the mouth doesn't get into the proper part of the goat's stomach and also may be spit out.

Fast the goats. Take goats off feed for 12 hours before and keep them off feed for 12 hours after deworming. Do not ever take goats off water. Obviously, this is not good for nursing does, so schedule de-worming around lactation.

Sometimes you have to use two different dewormers at the same time. When a single dewormer isn't working, combinations of dewormers may be necessary. This will increase the overall worm kill. However, if the goat population is too dense and/or the climate is too wet, this will not solve the problem.

Deworming does not mean it worked. The only way to know if the dewormer actually worked is to do fecal egg counts under a microscope before and after treatment.

Frequent deworming makes the wormload worse. Stomach worms develop resistance to dewormers very quickly. We have few choices and new dewormers are unlikely.

Do fecal counts under a microscope regularly. Doing fecal egg counts at least once a month and FAMACHA every two weeks from late spring to early fall will help identify goats needing treatment. The only way to know what kinds of worms and what wormload exists is by doing fecals. Fecal egg counts are the first line of defense in the war on worms.

Learn to do your own fecals. Buy an MSK-01 microscope (corded, not battery powered, and usually available on www.amazon.com) and the necessary supplies. "How do do your own fecals" is on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. For further parasite training, attend GoatCamp(tm) at Onion Creek Ranch every October to receive microscopic fecal egg count training and FAMACHA certification.

Over-crowded conditions and/or climate too wet = death sentence for goats. Under such conditions, you can de-worm repeatedly and not solve the problem. Some locales are simply not suitable for raising goats.

You can't count on finding veterinarians for goat advice and care. Goats are a minor ruminant species (less than two million in the USA in 2013 and declining in numbers, down from 12 million in 1990), so vets don't receive much formal education about goats. Goats are not a sizeable market for vets or pharmaceutical companies, so many goat raisers have to learn about goat care from other reliable sources. You definitely need a vet for prescription medications, surgery, and broken bones. Do your best to find one.

Find a mentor who knows goats. Educate yourself, with that person's assistance, to better care for your goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 6/5/17

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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Parasites are the biggest health management problem facing goat raisers. Worms and coccidia kill more goats than all other illnesses combined. The primary problem-causing worm in goats in most of the USA is Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm), which sucks blood, causing anemia and death. You should schedule routine monthly microscopic examinations of goat pills (feces) for worms and coccidia. Do not wait for a problem; prevent it.

Doing fecals is easy. All you need are a few supplies and some goat poop. An inexpensive and suitable microscope is the MSK-01 by C&A Scientific (10X-40X-400X) with a movable stage. The MSK-01 microscope, either corded or battery operated, is available on the Internet at sites such as Amazon.com inexpensively. The movable stage allows the user to adjust the slide from side to side when looking through the eyepiece.

Additional supplies needed are:

1) 50 ml ((cc) test tubes with caps

2) 125-150 ml (cc) cup

3) McMaster green-gridded slides Chalex Corp. www.vetslides.com.

4) Fecal floatation solution (sodium nitrate solution can be obtained online or from a vet)

Note: You can make fecal floatation solution from sugar and water, but it is a messy operation and doesn't keep well. Buy the proper product. Don't make working with feces an unpleasant task.

5) Stirrer (tongue blade or popsicle stick)

6) Eye dropper

7) Block of styrofoam hollowed out to hold the test tubes upright

8) Chart depicting worm eggs and coccidia oocysts. www.apacapacas.com/parasites/


Catch the goat whose feces you want to check and collect fresh pills. Use a fecal loop to gather feces from inside the goat or go inside with a disposable-gloved hand, grab several pills, exit the body, then turn the glove inside out to hold the feces. This gloved method is necessary when diarrhea exists. Do not use dried-out pills when doing fecal examinations. Empty pill bottles are good for collection and labeling.

Put four or five fresh goat pills or the equivalent amount of loose feces into the cup. Mash the pills with the tongue blade or popsicle stick. Pour 15 ml (cc) fecal floatation solution into the cup, then mash/mix the solution as much as possible. Transfer the solution to the 50 ml (cc) test tube and add fecal floatation solution to the 30 ml (cc) line. Put the cap on the test tube, making sure it fits tightly, then shake the tube for 30 seconds to further break up the pills. Put the tube in the styrofoam test-tube holder for two minutes to let the bubbles dissipate. Run water through the McMaster slide to wet the inside chamber, then dry both top and bottom of slide. Gently rock the test tube back and forth several times to make sure its contents are thoroughly mixed. Open the test tube and remove some solution with the eye dropper. Dispense the solution into one side of the McMaster chamber, making sure the solution covers the entire area under the green grids. Place the slide onto the microscope's stage and using the 100X (10X eye piece and 10X objective), find one corner of the green grid and scan up and down the six lanes, counting all the worm eggs you see. Use the worm egg/coccidia oocyst chart for identification. Multiply the number of worm eggs you see by 100 to get the Fecal Egg Count (FEC), i.e. eggs per gram of feces. Also note whether you see few or many cocci oocysts. The darkened "zeroes" with a small white pinhole center are water bubbles. Dispose of the contents of the test tube and wash for re-use. Rinse the McMaster slide in water for use with the next fecal sample.

Almost every goat has a few worms and even some coccidia to stimulate its immune system. An FEC (Fecal Egg Count) below 500 isn't usually an issue, so deworming may not be needed. If a FEC of more than 500 exists, or if many cocci oocysts are in your fecal sample, take appropriate corrective measures by medicating the goat properly. Note: Coccidia is a protozoan, not a worm, therefore dewormers do not affect it. Sulfa-based products like Albon must be used to kill cocci.

This procedure will tell you what you need to know in order to control the worm and cocci loads in your goat herd.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 6/15/17



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