Worms in goats can be a problem in dry weather
Recent dry weather may have goat producers thinking that internal parasites are not a problem. Last year’s dry weather resulted in few problems with worms in goats.
However, this year more producers are having problems with internal parasites, in part as a result of the wet weather that we had back in the spring, according to Jodie Pennington, Ph.D., small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension at the Newton County Extension Center.
“Worms are the primary internal parasite of small ruminants and remain one of the biggest problems of meat and dairy goats. They can also be a problem in sheep but not to the same extent as goats,” Pennington said.
Worms not only kill both young and old goats, they contribute to poor growth rates, an unthrifty appearance, coughing, diarrhea, and, in severe cases, bottle jaw.
To minimize contamination of uninfected goats, Pennington says it is essential to maintain a dry, clean environment with a sound manure management plan. Eggs from the worms can be deposited in the manure and then spread to other animals.
“In order to control worms, you must set up a deworming and sanitation program and then adhere to it,” Pennington said.
There are different types of deworming programs that can be effective for goats but it is critical to have a deworming program if worms are in the herd.
“Depending on location and density of animals in the field, deworming may have to be repeated at different times during the year. But doing so is essential because a lack of control of worms can destroy a herd. Like any drug, you want to minimize use of dewormers as much as possible by good management,” Pennington said.
One of the most effective worm-control programs includes monitoring the level of parasite eggs in the feces, (fecal egg counts). This provides an indication of the quantity of worms. Only animals with moderate-to-high fecal egg counts are dewormed.
Fecal egg counts can be used not only to monitor the level of infestation of internal parasites in goats but also to determine the effectiveness of the dewormers used to treat the goats.
For beginning goat owners, Pennington says it is best to work with a veterinarian or an experienced goat owner on internal parasite control in the herd. Good observation skills also may help detect animals that need to be dewormed and can be learned with experience.
For producers who deworm all goats on a four to six week schedule, there is greater risk of build-up of parasite resistance to a dewormer than with less frequent deworming.
“Goats that consistently need deworming should be culled from the herd,” Pennington said.
All dewormers can be effective but presently two of the most effective dewormers are moxidectin and levamisole which recently came back on the market.
General control recommendations for internal parasites in goats include sound manure management and cleanliness, pasture rotation to break the life cycle of the worms and appropriate livestock density.
Taller pastures for goats will minimize exposure to larva of internal parasites. Depending on the type of forage, goats should graze four to six inches above the ground to minimize exposure to larvae of internal parasites which are primarily located in the bottom four inches of grass.
Watering and feed troughs should also be constructed to prevent contamination by manure.
“Goats should be dewormed as often as needed to control worms. However, good sanitation and proper feed and forage management can decrease the number of animals needing to be dewormed,” Pennington said.
For more information about goats or sheep, contact Pennington at the Newton County Extension Center in Neosho, Mo., at 417-455-9500.