One of, if not THE, biggest issue that faces goat keepers is the issue of internal parasites.
In a species like the caprine, that comes from a much different climate than we now keep them in, it’s a constant struggle to stay ahead of parasites and keep your herd healthy.
An internal parasite infestation will prevent your goats from growing to their potential. They cause disease and anemia. Your goat will exhibit a rough coat, lethargy, even symptoms such as coughing and fever. Internal parasites kill.
So what can you do?
Let’s start with the most basics – checking your goat for worms. A very useful tool is using the Famacha chart to check eyelid color. A goat with a worm load will show it with anemia.
You check the color against the color of the inner eyelid.
Another useful tool that every serious goat keeper should look into learning for themselves is fecal sampling. You can learn how to do it here.
Prevention is also a huge key. Some folks swear by dry lots. I have personally had a lot of success in this as well, but you also have to take care that your dry lot does not become crowded and dirty.
Keep feeders off the ground – keep your goat’s feet out of it. Parasite eggs are transferred through fecal matter most of the time. Keep hay up high – don’t just dump it on the ground. Try your hardest to keep your goats out of their feed.
Water should be higher than the goats can poop in it whenever possible.
Copper bolusing (I’ll do a blog post on this as well in the future) can really help. Good diet and minerals can assist in boosting your animal’s immune system against parasites.
Pasture rotation is often heralded as a great way to keep parasites down, and it can be when done properly. You graze your goats in one field, then move them to a new one and follow them with another species like horses or hogs. (Rotating with sheep is ineffective as they can pass the same species of parasites to each other.) However, simply leaving a field fallow for a cycle will not kill the worms – it can take up to a year to clean an empty field of parasites.
Culling too, can assist you in building a strong resistant herd. Remove animals from your farm that are unable to stay healthy.
So how do you treat a worm load?
We have many options, but you’ll soon find that almost all of them are off-label use of chemical dewormers. Even now, there is a startling lack of research done by anyone except goat raisers themselves.
The biggest chemical dewormers include Ivomec, Cydectin, Dectomax, Safeguard, and Valbazen among others. I won’t go into specific dosages of each one as that can vary by where you are – what works for someone in Michigan or Montana does not work for me in Texas.
Some specifics notes: Valbazen is not safe for pregnant does. Safeguard has become largely ineffective almost everywhere, but still makes an excellent dog dewormer.
The most effective method of deworming is to use one dewormer and stick with it for a year. Switching back and forth from dewormer to dewormer can build resistance. Don’t ever underdose – always overdose! All of these dewormers are safe to overdose by some degree. Don’t deworm just once – deworm, then again in ten days, and in extreme cases, again in another ten days. Every time you get a really good rain, it’s a good idea to deworm again.
Dewormers carry an expiration date but generally do not expire.
I’ll touch base briefly on “natural” goat dewormers. I’ve been known to give the goats pumpkin and pumpkin seeds to this effect, but on the whole, “natural” dewormers are simply inefficient. Many people swear by Diatomaceous earth but there is absolutely no scientific evidence that eating or feeding this will have any effect at all on internal parasites, and indeed, much evidence that it does nothing at all.
Staying on top of parasites is the biggest key to being successful in goats.