Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Major Internal & External Parasites

Why are stomach worms such a big problem to goats? Goats of all breeds are more susceptible to stomach worms than other species of ruminants. No breed of goats is worm resistant. Goats need a small number of worms to stimulate the immune system so that they can tolerate some level of worm load. Your challenge is raising goats that are worm tolerant.

Interest in goats increased with the introduction of Boers into the United States in the early 1990's. However, one big negative to this boom in goats is that many goats have been transported to areas where they live in wet and crowded conditions in which they are frequently exposed to Haemonchus contortus, the blood-sucking (barberpole) stomach worm. All goat breeds are dry-land animals. They cannot handle wet or crowded conditions. People that paid thousands of dollars and had Boer goats that developed health problems then sold them to other breeders rather than sending them to slaughter to get them out of the breeding chain. Genetic weakness and general unthriftiness occur when bad management practices are in place.

This frequent moving to unsuitable climates made it difficult (in some cases, impossible) for goats to adapt to new surroundings. I repeat: All goat breeds are dry-land animals. People don't adapt to changes quickly. Why should we expect animals who live outside in the extremes of weather to adapt quickly to different living conditions? Yet producers must bring in new genetics to improve their herds. To continue to breed only goats from your own area results in linebreeding which produces poor quality and unhealthy goats.

Breed development has followed different paths. Boers were adapted over the last century to survive on the South African veld -- a sparse landscape with annual rainfall rates of less than ten (10) inches. Relocating this breed to very wet areas like the south central and southeastern parts of the United States has produced disasters. Multiple generations are needed for Boers to adapt to a climate of 20-plus inches of rain per year. Add to that the intensive management and feeding practices which are common to Boers raised in the United States, and they have had a huge hurdle just to survive.

Kikos were developed in wet New Zealand. They have been marketed in the USA as more able to tolerate worms because of their supposed adaptation to a wet climate. In truth, they ran over thousands of acres of land in New Zealand, where the weak died and the hardy survived. Kikos have done better in America than Boers so far, but they've not been here nearly as long.

Adaptability does not transfer with any goat, regardless of breed, from one location to another. Each animal has to adapt to the organisms, plant materials, and climate of its new location. America already has several meat-goat breeds long adapted to their specific climatic conditions. These are landrace breeds: Myotonics, spanish, and "brush" goats. Moving any goat breed from one location to another requires adaptation time.

Deworming alone cannot solve the stomach-worm problem. You cannot de-worm your way out of stomach worms. Management conditions must be changed to permit rotational foraging/browsing. Goats should be moved to a new area frequently; the timeframe must be determined based upon your property and its forage/browse availability as well as wormloads. Three or four pastures are needed so that goats are not returned to the original pasture too quickly. Even this arrangement is no guarantee of manageable wormloads. No breed of goats is resistant to stomach worms. The best genetics will never overcome improper management.

Overcrowding and uncleanliness are the main reasons for worms (and most illnesses). The goat's natural habitat is free range browsing/foraging over many acres per day, eating from the top down, creating a browse line -- like deer. This method keeps goats from eating on or close to the ground and coming into contact with grasses and goat feces that are worm infected. Few worm larvae can reach plant heights that goats prefer to browse. Plants growing close to the ground tend to have a texture that is unpalatable to goats. Goats will forage/browse elsewhere unless their choices have been limited by drought or overuse of the land. Goats permitted the freedom to forage over large areas are far less likely to become infected with heavy wormloads and far more able to develop a tolerance for stomach worms. This should be a major goal of every goat producer. If you try to make grazers out of animals that are foragers/browsers, the results will be sick and dead goats.

Myotonics, spanish, and "brush" goats roaming semi-wild are examples of landrace breeds that have long been hardy and thrifty because (a) they have not been subjected to intensive confinement and management; and (b) no one really cared whether they survived, so the poor ones died off while the adapted goats lived. Natural selection ("survival of the fittest") strengthened the genetic lines.

There is no easy way to raise goats. If de-worming is not labor intensive, it is not likely to work well. This is especially true of feed-based dewormers. I do not use and do not recommend using feed-based dewormers. The goat who most needs deworming is on the bottom of the pecking order and least likely to get its fair share of the dewormer-treated feed. Individually orally dosing each goat is the only way to get proper dewormer levels in each animal. Do not apply dewormers topically to the skin of a goat.

Chemical Vs. "Natural" Dewormers: There is no scientific evidence that any "natural" product, including Diatomaceous Earth (DE), is effective against internal parasites in goats.

"Natural," "herbal " and "organic" dewormers: In addition to being unproven for effectiveness, these products have the additional drawback of being dangerous because effective and toxic levels can be very close. Example: Wormwood is a plant-based "natural" product believed by some to have deworming properties. But for wormwood to achieve any level of effectiveness, the dosage has to be so high that it can kill the goat. Plants protect themselves from pests by producing high levels of toxins. Chemical compounds occur everywhere. Because something grows untouched by human hands ("naturally") does not mean that it is safe. Arsenic is a good example; there are many more. "Natural," "organic," and "herbal" products can and do vary in product composition, safety, and effectiveness and mean different things in different states and geographical areas.

Goat raisers must use dewormers approved for other species on an "off-label" basis at dosages that, through fecal testing, have been determined to be effective in goats. If goat populations increase, pharmaceutical companies hopefully will recognize this market and will spend the time and money to develop new dewormers. However, since 1990 when I first began raising goats, the goat population in the USA has declined from twelve million animals to two million goats in 2014. The goat population is declining because (a) people don't understand the species and the difficulties encountered in raising them, (b) they try to raise them in climates too wet, and (c) people try to raise goats on too small acreage. Goat breeders have a limited number of classes of dewormers to use; over-use and improper usage result in loss of effective worm kill.

Don't assume that colder or dryer weather automatically means less worm problems. How long the worm larvae live inside and outside the goat is subject to many difficult-to-quantify variables. Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm) is a huge problem. Worm eggs hatch in goat feces ("pills"). Two inches of rain will dissolve a goat pill and release the infective larvae to crawl up vegetation, waiting for goats to eat them. Moisture as light as morning dew is enough for larvae to reach the tips of plants.

Dangerous in summer, Haemonchus contortus can become a silent killer during winter. Once eaten by goats, larvae either develop into adult worms in about three weeks or enter a state of hibernation called hypobiosis. While in hypobiosis, worms don't eat, grow, or show any signs of life until conditions trigger the completion of their life cycle. Hibernating worm larvae come to life when a pregnant doe goes into labor. They begin laying eggs in anticipation of her newborn kids' eating them when the kids begin to consume solid food at two to three weeks of age.

Stomach worms are blood suckers. When a goat is carrying a heavy wormload, protein and blood cells are removed faster than the goat's body can rebuild them. "Wormy" goats will eat continually and still lose weight. If you don't take immediate action, anemia and death will result. Anemia can become so severe that saving its life is not possible.

Regular fecal counts are the best way to monitor worm load in your herd. Both simple and inexpensive, how to do your own fecals is explained in easy-to-follow language on the Articles page of Onion Creek Ranch's website at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Or have your vet perform fecal counts for you. The goal is to achieve a 90% drop in fecal egg counts within seven days after deworming. In between doing fecal counts, you can perform the FAMACHA field test to check for stomach worms. Pull the lower eyelid down and examine its mucous membrane. The inside of the lower eyelid should be bright red to bright pink if the goat is tolerating its wormload. Light-pink mucous membranes are present in "wormy" goats, and anemic (on-the-way-to-dying) goats have white membranes. (Gum coloration has nothing to do with wormload.) Saving goats suffering from severe anemia due to heavy wormload is difficult to do. Use this field test as a guideline only. It is not 100% accurate. Fecal counts are essential -- they are "ground zero" in controlling internal parasites in your herd.

Wormloads in pastures can be reduced by grazing cattle or horses in rotation behind goats. Don't use sheep; they are susceptible to the same worms as goats. Tilling, planting, and harvesting small-grain crops also reduce pasture parasites.

Worms are year-around problems. All dewormers should be given orally to goats. Orally drenching with dewormers during winter will help kill hibernating larvae before they become active when kidding begins. Deworming kids at about two months of age can be critical. Kids are especially at risk when they are weaned and off the immuno-protections afforded through their dam's milk.

Each area has its own climatic conditions that will dictate appropriate deworming cycles. The goal is to de-worm as infrequently as possible. A hot and wet climate means more frequent deworming, making rotational foraging even more important. Stomach worms are very adept at mutating, becoming more resistant to all dewormers currently on the market. Every goat brought onto your property brings with it resistant worm offspring that are different from those already on your land and in your animals. When you find a dewormer that works, stay with it until fecal counts indicate problems. Rotating dewormers makes worms more resistant to all classes of dewormers. Establish a regularly-scheduled program to check your goats for worms and rely heavily on fecal testing. Do not skimp on proper dosages. The value of one dead goat exceeds the cost of any dewormer.

Below are some of the better known classes of dewormers used with goats:

1) Avermectin (Ivermectin). The "clear" dewormers. Ivomec, Dectomax, and Cydectin, and Quest Gel fall into this category. Effective against stomach worm, meningeal deer worm, lungworm, and lice. Not effective against tapeworm. Although some Ivermectin is labeled for injection, it produces a quicker "kill" when given orally to goats. Quest Gel is packaged in a plunger-style tube for use with large animals, making it both difficult and wasteful to use because calculating and controlling the dosage small enough for goats isn't easy.

Cydectin (moxidectin) is part of the Ivermectin class of dewormers. Although Cydectin is higher in potency, worms that are resistant to Ivermectin will become resistant to Cydectin. Producers using Cydectin as a first choice have few options when it quits working.

2) Benzimidazoles. The "white" dewormers. Valbazen, Safeguard/Panacur, Synanthic, Telmin, Benzelmin, Anthelcide, TBZ. Effective against tapeworms and meningeal deerworm. No longer effective against stomach worms in most of the USA. Do not treat pregnant does with Valbazen; it can cause abortions.

3) Imidazothiazole: Levamisole, Tramisol, Levasol, pyrantel, morantel. Effective against stomach worms. Pregnant does may abort. The safe and toxic dosages of this class of dewormers are very close, making it potentially dangerous. Each goat must be weighed.

Occasionally stomach worms may become so bad that a veterinarian may recommend that you use dewormers from two of these classes at the same time. A herd in this condition is a herd at great health risk. Under such circumstances, you should seriously re-evaluate your entire management program.

Oral drenching works best when deworming goats. Goats empty their rumens faster than other ruminants. De-wormers formulated to have a "long-lasting effect" are used up more quickly -- in about three days -- by goats. However, enough drug residual is left in the goats to allow worms to begin building up resistance to the dewormer. Given orally, such products produce a quicker and more effective worm kill and exit the goats' systems, leaving less de-wormer residual for the worms to develop resistance against. See the paragraph below for the only exception to this statement -- encysted worms. Hides are too thin on goats to use pour-on back drenches. Neurological problems have occurred in some goats after being backdrenched.

The exception to the statement "oral drenching works best" is encysted worms. Worms can be both freefloating and embedded (encysted) in the stomach walls of heavily-wormy goats. Encysted worms do not show up in fecal examinations because they are still inside the goat. Oral deworming kills the freefloaters but does not affect those worms encysted in the stomach lining. Once the freefloating worms are gone, some of the embedded worms become freefloating. As worms multiply, crowding causes some of them to embed in the walls. At this point, the goat is getting weak, bottlejaw appears, and the goat's survival is at risk. My immediate solution is to inject 1% Ivermectin with an 18 gauge needle at a dosage rate of one cc (1 cc) per 25 pounds bodyweight, permitting greater body-wide absorption of the dewormer-- assuming 1% Ivermectin still works in your area. Fecals will tell you if your dewormer is working. You may have to repeat this procedure every 10 days for a total of three applications. NOTE: Injecting with 1% Ivermectin has a painful stinging/burning effect on some goats, but the reaction lasts only a few minutes. Inject 1% Ivermectin over the ribs sub-cutaneously (SQ) for less injection-site reaction. The real solution involves significant necessary management changes on your part. Too many goats on too small acreage and/or wet climate results in worms. Wet = worms. Crowding = worms.

Deworm all pregnant does about two to three weeks before the first doe is expected to kid. Do not use Valbazen or Levamisole on pregnant does. Mow areas of vegetation that goats won't eat or is too tall to allow sun to dry the ground so that the sun can help kill worm larvae.

A newer and better approach to deworming is to de-worm only high-risk animals within a herd rather than medicating the entire group. There is a field test for checking for wormload called FAMACHA. Originating in South Africa and identified by an acronym of its developers' names, FAMACHA teaches goat raisers to check goats individually for "worminess." The goal is to use smarter management to avoid overuse of deworming medications that ultimately result in their loss of effectiveness. There is some evidence that deworming all goats at one time results in a quick kill of the worms most susceptible to the dewormer, leaving the "super-worms" to be passed out in feces. The belief is that deworming goats selectively as they need it will result in a sloughing off of worms to which the overall herd can develop better resistance. You should be looking towards selecting for reasonable worm tolerance in your goats.

Goats exhibiting regular recurring worminess should be culled so that the herd overall becomes more worm tolerant. Goats as a species are not benefitted by maintaining weak links in the genetic chain. Dr. Jim Miller, parasitologist at Louisiana State University, teaches FAMACHA and how to do your own fecals every October at GoatCamp(tm) at Onion Creek Ranch in Texas.

Lots of people currently raising goats are fighting a losing battle with worms. Too many goats on not enough land means no rotational foraging is possible. Couple this with heavy annual rainfall rates and pasture rather than browse conditions and goats are not going to survive much less thrive.

Trying to depend on dewormers to do the job will only result in breeding weak (unthrifty)goats. If your circumstances are similar to this, consider rethinking your business plan. Goats may not be what you should be raising. Just because a person wants to raise a specific crop does not make it doable. Livestock, as well as crops, are specific to certain land and climatic conditions. Wanting to raise alfalfa in poor soil without irrigation is not realistic -- no matter how much a person wants to do it. Raising goats under unfavorable conditions is no different.

Lice cause serious illness and even death in goats. There are two types of lice: blood-sucking and non-blood-sucking. A scruffy-coated goat that has been treated for worms and remains ragged looking probably is infested with lice. Rough hair coat and weigh loss are two indicators. Don't try to determine the type of lice -- just treat for them. Products like Synergized Delice and Cylence are available across the counter and are easily applied using squeeze bottles with small applicator tips. Use puppy-safe or kitten-safe flea powder on young kids under six months of age. Five-percent Sevin Dust or Diatomaceous Earth (DE) are two other options for use on young kids. Lice are easy to kill. Follow the dosage directions and apply the oily product along the topline (backbone) of the goat from base of neck to base of tail. (Topline application of delicer is acceptable because it works differently from dewormers, since lice are external parasites.) Lice should begin dying almost immediately. Re-treat in 7 to 10 days.

Flies. Normal weather conditions in West Texas do not produce many flies. For those of you in much wetter climates, you may know more than I do how to handle flies. Here is what I know about controlling flies.

Fly Predators: Jeffers (1-800-533-3377 or www.jefferslivestock.com) sells these small parasitic wasps that attack and kill flies in their immature pupal stage. There are certain times of the year that they need to be introduced and then re-introduced. I am told that they are very effective in the right application.

Fly traps: There are many types of fly traps. I use the Trap N Toss fly traps in my working chute and pen areas. When filled with water and a fly attractant that comes with the disposable container, they attract flies into the trap. When the trap fills up with dead flies, dispose of it.

Fly sprays: There are many types of fly sprays. I use one of the fly sprays that are safe enough to be applied directly to the goat (or dog) when flies are big problems. When a doe kids and flies are bothering her, I'll spray her legs and rear end; if a goat has an injury, I'll spray around the skin or horn break.

Fly Creams: SWAT is my choice. Pink-colored SWAT allows you to see where it has been applied. SWAT is more long-lasting than fly sprays.

Diatomaceous Earth (DE): While DE doesn't kill internal parasites, it does cut down on external parasites like flies. I shake DE on the ground in the chute and working pens. If a goat is particularly attractive to flies, I rub DE over the goat's back or other affected areas, taking care to keep DE out of eyes & nose. I buy food-grade DE, just in case the goats decide to taste it. Available in 50 pound sacks at most feed stores.

Poultry: Chickens and guineas are particularly good about keeping down fly and other insect populations. I cannot keep them alive in West Texas, because of birds of prey like owls. My dogs leave them alone during the day, but if they fly from the trees at night -- which they do -- the dogs get them. I cannot punish dogs for doing their job of protecting their goats from perceived prey.

Fly Collars: I do not use collars of any kind. Goats are too prone to getting collars caught and hanging themselves.

Ants. My geographic area is not usually heavily populated with ants. When I need ant control, I use Amdro Fire Ant Bait, which I've found to kill all the varieties of ants on my ranch. Amdro isn't toxic to goats in my environment. It may present more problems in areas of heavier ant infestation.

Coccidia, Mites & Ticks are discussed in other articles that I've written. They are available on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com or in MeatGoatMania.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 6/11/16

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Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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