December 2020 Issue



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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.


Managing what goats eat and monitoring what comes out the other end are two keys to raising healthy goats.

Monitoring fecal output is critical to controlling wormloads. Other than predators, the biggest enemy of goats is stomach worms. Stomach worms destroy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body. They suck blood, cause anemia, de-oxygenate the organs (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, brain, muscles) and kill the goat.

Think of goats as deer. Never over-crowd goats. If you think you can put 5 or 10 goats on an acre of land, ask yourself if you could do that with deer. The answer is NO. Goats need space to roam, eating "from the top down" to avoid close-to-ground-level stomach worms. They also must have enough space to minimize access to fecal material that contains stomach worms.

WET = WORMS. Much of the USA is too wet to raise goats successfully. The heavily vegetative areas along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard are where major concentrations of Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm) thrive. All goats, regardless of breed, are dry-land animals. Twenty-five (25) inches of rain a year can be too much for goats unless you've kept your population density low, have lots of acreage (no more than two goats per acre and sometimes less), and monitor fecal counts under a microscope on a monthly basis.

There is no breed of goat that is resistant to worms, despite advertising making such claims. The barberpole stomach worm always has the advantage. Do not depend upon FAMACHA. While it can be a decent field test for monitoring wormloads, it does not reflect those worms in the goat that have not yet reached the point in their life cycle when they start consuming blood. Random fecal counts using a microscope and a McMasters slide every month are your best tool.


I get calls every day about goat health problems. Ninety-nine percent of them are convinced they are dealing with an exotic disease. After 20 minutes of questions, I almost always find that their goats are severely wormy. "What's the dosage for LA 200?" My questions reveal wormy goats. "My vet says my goat has goat polio." My questions reveal wormy goats.

Just because you gave a dewormer does NOT mean that it worked. In fact, dewormers have been so overused that they have lost their effectiveness. The white-colored dewormers (Safeguard, Panacur, Valbazen) don't kill stomach worms in 99% of the USA .

With goats, it is almost always the simplest thing. The simplest thing is the deadly stomach worm.

Read my articles on how to do your own fecals on the Articles page at Buy the MSK-01 microscope with moveable stage, fecal floatation solution, McMasters slides, and other basic supplies, and start doing your own fecals randomly every month. Learn how to monitor fecal material and you have a fighting chance of staying ahead of blood-sucking worms.

Feeding the Rumen, Not the Goat

Goat health problems are often caused by improper feeding. Management is 100% of raising healthy goats. Changes in feed, hay, forage/browse can affect rumen pH and blood chemistry that result in overeating disease, diarrhea, toxicity (plant, mineral, hay, or grain), listeriosis, goat polio, pregnancy toxemia, ketosis, hypocalcemia, floppy kid syndrome, laminitis/founder, ruminal acidosis, and bloat. Antibiotic therapy can cause changes in the rumen.

Located on the goat's left side, the rumen manufactures nutrients by using live bacteria (microbes) to convert food matter into nutrition. Working much like a living compost pile or fermentation vat and smelling like it, the rumen begins breaking down food as soon as the goat swallows it. Whatever the goat eats goes into the rumen, one of four stomachs (rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum), each of which has a specialized function. Goats eat by foraging for several hours, then while resting, regurgitating a chunk of cud (partially digested food) and chewing it.

If the pH of the rumen becomes acidic (it should be slightly alkaline at about 7.2), the goat can get sick and die. What and how much the goat eats is critical to its overall health. The rumen must be properly fed to keep the live bacteria healthy and active. If the microbes are used up or compromised, undigested food turns toxic and the goat can die.

Most people's conception of goats is 180* out of sync with reality. They think goats can eat anything. Not true. Goats are very picky eaters. They have to be. Because of their rapid rumen passage rate (about 11 hours), many plant materials are literally not digestible and become toxic to goats. The slower rumen motility of cattle, for example, permits their bodies to utilize plant materials that are coarse and high in lignin (indigestible fiber) that goats cannot digest. See my articles on rumen toxicity on

Listen to the rumen's growling sounds. A goat with a healthy rumen has terrible breath. Press your hand to the left side of the goat's body to feel rumen movement. Learn to distinguish the sound of a healthy rumen from a goat grinding its teeth in pain.

What a goat eats significantly determines its overall health. Intensive management lends itself to health problems. Goats cannot be feed-lotted like cattle; they cannot overcome the wormload present in feces and high-density pastures or the stress of crowding. Goats live, eat, and move across their environment like DEER. If feed-lotting were possible with goats, "Big Ag" companies would have long ago vertically integrated meat goat raising from birth through slaughter.

Raising any breed of goat is 100% management. To be a successful meat goat raiser, you must set goals and adopt management practices that will allow you to achieve those goals. Constantly re-evaluate the amount and quality of your acreage, including type of forage and browse. Shelter, pens, fencing, cross-fencing, and other facilities in existence or that must be constructed must be considered. The number of goats you are raising on the land and the climatic conditions in which the goats are living are critical factors. You must determine the amount of money available to spend on your goat-raising venture, as well as the existence of a sale market for the animals being raised.

It is a garbage in, garbage out situation. You are feeding a rumen, not a goat. Manage INTAKE (feed) and monitor OUTPUT (feces) to have healthy goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 12/13/20


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