Pasture Management for Parasite Control

Episode 113
For the Love of Goats

Pasture Management for Parasite Control featured image

Rotational grazing is the key to parasite control. After all, if you limit infection of your goats, you limit the potential for them to become severely parasitized. But there is more to rotational grazing than simply dividing up your pasture by a magic number.

Heather Glennon, Associate Professor of Animal Science at University of Mount Olive and goat owner, is talking about pasture management for parasite control in this episode.

She explains how different species of grasses have different ideal grazing heights, as well as how you can use annual forages and browse in your parasite control program. We also had a great discussion about forages rich in condensed tannins, and I realized why the chicory in my pasture might not have as much effect on parasites as sericea lespedeza.

You’ll learn how you can improve your forage quality to make it more nutritious for your goats and help them be more parasite resilient. We also discuss the role that other livestock and harvesting hay can play in cleaning up your pasture and reducing the parasite load.

If you have questions, Heather can be reached via email.

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Introduction  0:03 
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann  0:19 
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to answer a lot of questions for people who are curious about pasture management, and rotational grazing, and all that kind of stuff. We are joined today by Heather Glennon, Associate Professor of Animal Science at the University of Mount Olive, and she is one of those awesome, amazing, so rare researchers who has had goats her whole life. So, I’m really excited about today’s show. Welcome, Heather!

Heather Glennon  0:48 
Thanks so much for having me! I’m excited to talk about goats and worms and pastures.

Deborah Niemann  0:53 
Yeah, this is gonna be really great, because I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have is that they have to have a lot more acres than they really need. You know, I’ve had people think that, “Oh, I only have two acres. I can’t do rotational grazing with three goats.” So, this is part of what I want to talk about today. So, first of all, for somebody who may be really new to all of this, can you just kind of explain what rotational grazing is and why we want to do it?

Heather Glennon  1:22 
Sure. Rotational grazing is when you would move your animals to a different part of your pasture or a different part of your land every few days or a few weeks, depending on what you decide is best for your operation. And, it allows the forage the ability to rest after it has been grazed. And, it also allows the animals to eat forage that hasn’t been, let’s say, “defecated” on by the animals. And, that is important when we’re talking about parasite control. So, when the animal has worms, the eggs are going to come out in the fecal pellets and be deposited on the ground. Within four days, those eggs can actually hatch out into infective larvae. So, if we are able to rotate our animals to a new piece of ground in our pasture or on our property, then we won’t have the reinfection risk that we would if we left them in that same spot.

Deborah Niemann  2:24 
Awesome. So, can you talk about—because a lot of people, they just think, “Oh, I just need to know how often do I need to move my goats?” And, they think that there’s, like, one solid answer here. Like, “Oh, every five days. Every seven days. Every 10 days.” And, I always tell people, “One of the things that goes into it is the height of the grass.” Can you talk about that?

Heather Glennon  2:42 
Sure. Different species of grasses grow at different times of the year, and each of them has an optimal start and stop height for when you would graze them. So, the first thing you would want to do is identify the different forage plants that you have in your pasture, and then know when the best quality of that forage is going to occur. So, something like tall fescue, we would recommend that you start grazing at 8 to 10 inches tall, and you can allow your animals to graze down to about 4 inches in height, but you never would want to go shorter than that. That’s just one forage and one example; each forage species has a different start and stop height, depending on its biology.

Deborah Niemann  3:24 
And, if somebody is not real sure about it, is there a way… Like, I know, if it’s already gone to seed, and you’ve got these stalks with seed heads on them, the goats are not usually interested in that, because that’s not as tasty as other grass. Is there any other visual cue that people might see to tell them that it’s going to be more or less palatable to their goats?

Heather Glennon  3:48 
Well, the leafier that the plant is, the better the animals are going to eat it. And so, we definitely don’t like it to get a stick, stem, or seed head on it, because then it becomes really high in fiber, the animals aren’t as interested in eating it, and it’s also less digestible, so they’re gonna get less nutrients from it. So, I always tell people, “If you can keep it in the leafy”—what we call vegetative—”stage, that is ideal for any species of animal.”

Deborah Niemann  4:17 
Okay. We really don’t do anything in terms of planting or anything; we just move our animals. But I noticed, when I was reading the article you wrote for the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control, that you talk about using annual forages. And, that is something I have not seen anyone talk about before. Can you talk about how people could use annual forages?

Heather Glennon  4:41 
Sure. There are a lot of folks who just graze what naturally comes up in the pasture every year. And, if you would like to become a little better manager, you can actually plant annuals, either in the summertime or in the fall. I can give you a few examples of what we do here in North Carolina. In the fall of the year, probably around September, we can actually drill or plant oats, or rye grass, or clovers, vetch, lots of different annual forages. And, what an annual is, it’s just a plant that is going to complete its lifecycle in one year. So, you’ll get a season of grazing, and then that plant will actually die, and you’ll have to replant something else. So, we would plant those annuals in the fall. And then, we would allow them to grow for a couple of months. And then, we could start grazing them, and we would be able to have forage all winter long, which is very nice where we’re at.

Heather Glennon  5:37 
And, you could do the same thing in the summertime, usually in May. We have lots of different annuals to pick from, such as pearl millet, or Sorghum-sudan, cowpea, sunn hemp—lots of things that we could plant. So, if your pastures were a little shy or skim or weedy, you know, you could renovate them, and get rid of those weeds—mow those weeds down—and then fill in those bare spots with some annual forages. And, that will help with parasite control. Because, it’s going to take a couple of months for those forages to grow, and while those forages are growing, your animals are not on that land. And so, any of the larvae that are in the soil, they may have a chance to die in those couple of months while you’re waiting for the annuals to grow. So, it will help clean up your pastures just a little bit, as well.

Deborah Niemann  6:27 
Oh, this reminds me. So, we actually have planted some seeds. But, it doesn’t really feel like we were doing it for our goats as much as sometimes we would rotate pigs through areas, and the pigs would completely destroy it. So then, we would have lots of bare dirt. And, in those cases, because I’m in Illinois, and we would just broadcast—because it was all very nicely tilled by the pigs—we would just broadcast rye seed and sometimes oats. And, like you said, then when it got to be a few inches tall, the goats just absolutely loved that.

Heather Glennon  7:07 
Yes. You don’t actually have to have lots of equipment in order to plant annuals. There are some varieties that have really small seed, and you could just broadcast them by mowing what is existing kind of short, and then throwing out your small seed, and allowing that seed to make contact with the soil, and letting it grow. And hopefully, it rains on it a couple of times, and you’ll get some good annual forage growth for grazing for your animals.

Deborah Niemann  7:34 
Yeah, I remember that. It was just amazing. Whenever you have a good rain, what a huge growth spurt you would see in the seeds that you had planted.

Deborah Niemann  7:44 
So, another thing that is really important for people when it comes to—and it’s not technically “grazing.” It’s that goats are browsers. And so, if you’ve got browse on your property, that’s so important. I’m kind of surprised how many people I hear from who talk about wanting to, like, you know, use a bush hog to cut down all of their weeds and stuff and plant grass seed and everything. It just always breaks my heart when I hear that, because it’s like, “The browse is, like, the perfect goat buffet.” So, can you talk about why that is?

Heather Glennon  8:18 
Sure, yes. Goats would definitely pick to eat in the woods or on the edge of the woods—the browse—over grass any day of the week. In fact, my goats got loose last week; they broke the fence, and they went into the woods and started eating the browse. And so, I didn’t really have to worry about them escaping too far, because they had plenty of good forage to eat.

Heather Glennon  8:37 
But, two good things about allowing your animals to eat browse. The first one is, if you want to think about parasites again, parasites are usually only going to be found in the bottom three inches of forage. And so, most of our browse species are going to be taller than that, or our animals are going to be standing on their hind legs in order to eat out of the trees or the bushes, and so they will not be reinfecting themselves with those parasite larvae. So, that’s one great reason to use browse. And, the second is that a lot of those browse species are very high in protein. And so, that protein will help them grow, or produce milk, or, you know, just whatever you’re using your animals for—put a nice, sleek, shiny coat on them. So, browse is really good in proteins, as well as allowing them to eat off of the ground. And, some of the browse can have condensed tannins in them or other medicinal properties that could help. They’re higher in minerals, and so that will also help with their immunity and their nutrition.

Deborah Niemann  9:38 
Oh, that is a perfect segue into the next thing I want to talk about, which is plants that have condensed tannins in them. Can you talk about that some more?

Heather Glennon  9:45 
Sure. Lots of research has been done lately, and what it has shown is that plants with a certain level of condensed tannins—which is a compound in the plant—will actually help with parasite control in the animals. And, one of the forages that has been researched the most is called sericea lespedeza, and this is a seed that you can purchase; it’s actually a perennial seed. So, once you plant it, and you manage the land well, you can have that stand for 10, 15, 20 years. And, what that sericea lespedeza does is… So, I’ll start off by saying it’s a legume, so it’s high in protein. So, we’re going to give our animals good nutrition off the bat if they’re grazing that lespedeza. But secondly, it has enough condensed tannins in it to have a negative effect on those worms that are inside of our goats. The adult worms inside of those animals are not going to be able to suck or ingest the blood from the animals, and they also will not be able to lay eggs. So, those condensed tannins have those two effects on the worms inside of the animal, which is a good thing, because it will lessen the anaemia that the animals are going to be exposed to from those worms. And then, they’ll also be contaminating the area less, because there are less eggs being laid by those adult worms inside of the animal.

Heather Glennon  11:12 
So, what we have learned is, the animals do enjoy eating that sericea lespedeza. And, it does inhibit egg laying. So, we will have lower fecal egg counts in our animals, and we should have higher FAMACHA scores or anemia scores that we see in the eye, but it doesn’t necessarily kill the worms that are living inside of the animal. So, you have to be careful if you take your animals off of that sericea lespedeza. It’s almost like we’ve kind of inhibited the worms, but we haven’t killed them. So, once we take them out of the environment where there’s no condensed tannins anymore, those worms are going to start ingesting blood, as well as laying eggs again, and your animals could get very sick very quickly without you realizing what has happened.

Deborah Niemann  12:04 
Oh, that is really good to know. And, that’s why I know they say that the goats have to be eating it every day, and they have to be eating a lot of it. It’s not like you can say, “Oh, I’m going to give you a handful of sericea lespedeza once a week or something to take care of your worms.” That’s not going to do it. This really is something that they need to be grazing on regularly—or eating daily. Because, I know they also make hay out of it. So, one way or another, the goats needs to be eating a lot of it on a daily basis.

Heather Glennon  12:30 
Yes, it has been shown that the animal should have daily intake of a condensed tannin product. And, it should actually make up, I like to say, at least 50% of the dry matter intake every day to really have an impact on the parasites inside of the animal. You’re right in the fact that you can’t just use it as a medicine and give them a handful of hay or pellets or something that contain the sericea and expect it to clean them out, because it’s really that constant exposure to the tannins that is inhibiting the worms.

Deborah Niemann  13:04 
That’s really good to know. So, we hear so much about sericea lespedeza, and I know there are a lot of other plants that have condensed tannins in them, but there doesn’t seem like there’s as much research. But, if you look at the research, like, do some of the other condensed tannins work as well? I guess I’ve always wondered, like, why is everybody researching sericea lespedeza instead of the other ones?

Heather Glennon  13:27 
I think sericea lespedeza does well on very poor, infertile, dry soil. So, it actually grows probably where you don’t want it to grow. And, certain states do consider it an invasive plant, and they actually would prefer that you don’t plant it for your animals, because it can take over. And so, I think that, because it grows so well in a lot of different areas, folks have tended to concentrate their research on that.

Heather Glennon  13:53 
But, I know that other institutions or researchers have looked at birdsfoot trefoil, and I do believe that that is a forage that could be utilized in the northeastern part of the United States. It doesn’t grow so well down here in North Carolina, because it’s too hot and dry for it. And also, chicory. When I was at NC State, we did a few research projects trying to measure fecal egg count with chicory, and one of the issues that we were running into is that it was not quite as productive as far as making biomass or yield as the sericea lespedeza was. So, we had a little bit of issue with our stance just having enough of the chicory for the animals to eat, because it is a different type of plant with the wide leaf, and the animals have to get adapted to eating it. But, chicory and birdsfoot trefoil are two of the other ones that could be possibilities in your area.

Deborah Niemann  14:45 
You know what, that makes a lot of sense, what you just said about the chicory, because we have chicory that grows wild in our farm. And so, I always wondered how we wound up with a problem with worms 15 to 20 years ago. Like, “Well, this grows wild on our farm. Why is there a problem?” But, as soon as you said, “It just isn’t as productive as sericea lespedeza,” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, not nearly.” It looks like a lot when it’s blooming, but if you think about what a field of sericea lespedeza looks like, there’s no comparison. Like, way more sericea lespedeza is gonna grow in an area than chicory.

Heather Glennon  15:22 
Most definitely. There could be several tons of dry matter out there on a sericea lespedeza pasture, and it does allow itself to be made into hay quite well. You do have to be a little bit careful, because it has really small leaves that could shatter during the hay-making process, just like alfalfa. But, I know a lot of people are bailing sericea lespedeza, and it is in hot demand, because it will provide the same parasite control if you allow your animals to eat enough of it every day.

Deborah Niemann  15:52 
Yeah, that is really good. And, I know people who’ve used it—you know, people down South who have had really bad parasite problems and have had terrific success with it. But, I think the real important thing to know is that you do have to feed it regularly.

Heather Glennon  16:07 
One of the better things that goes along with that is if you have young kids that are at the weaning age, and you allow them to graze sericea, it will really help with the coccidia problem, and you’ll have a lot less coccidiosis in your young, just-weaned kids, and they’ll grow better through the summer if you are able to provide that to them.

Deborah Niemann  16:27 
Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that, because that is another really great benefit. You know, because coccidia is not a type of worm. So, it’s really unusual to find something that your kids can eat that would take care of both worms and coccidia. I don’t actually know of anything else that does help control both of those species.

Heather Glennon  16:47 
Yeah, I would recommend anyone who has sheep or goats to definitely look into planting sericea lespedeza on their farm. It can be a challenge to get it planted. It is a very small seed, and it takes a long time to establish, and it could get shaded out by weeds or other grass species that are in your pasture. So, you really have to look into the best establishment methods for it. But, if you have sheep and goats, it will definitely help you decrease your deworming and parasite issues over the summertime.

Deborah Niemann  17:21 
One of the things that you touched on a little bit was mentioning, like, “Sericea lespedeza is legume, so it has a high protein count,” is forage quality. And, I know this is something that does not get talked about a whole lot, but it’s really important for people to realize that goats can handle parasites better if they’ve got more protein in their diet. So, can you talk about that a little bit, also? And, you mentioned some things already; the sericea lespedeza can increase the protein in their diet. So, how can forage quality affect their parasite resistance?

Heather Glennon  17:55 
Sure. So, proteins in the animal are needed to help repair tissue whenever they have a large infestation of parasites. Red blood cells muscle, you know, there’s lots of tissue that has to be repaired, and legumes and/or high-protein diets are going to help the animals rebound a little bit faster and stay in good condition. So, we do recommend… It kind of goes back to that rotational grazing, as well. If you are managing your pastures correctly, and allowing your grasses and your legumes to stay at the appropriate height and stay vegetative, then they’re going to be high in protein. So, grasses can be, you know, fairly high in protein if you keep them in the vegetative stage, but legumes are just naturally going to be higher, because they produce their own nitrogen.

Heather Glennon  18:44 
And so, some of the ones that I have planted that goats have really enjoyed eating—a natural one is white clover, right? We have ladino clover or white clover. That is a perennial that grows when it’s cooler. And, red clover is another one that is considered a biennial; its lifespan is about two years. So, white clover and red clover, are natural fits when you have a perennial grass pasture. You can overseed those clovers into your grass pasture pretty easily there.

Heather Glennon  19:12 
If you were thinking about using some annual legumes, some of the ones that I have used before in the cooler weather would be crimson clover or arrowleaf clover; they grow really well, and the goats do enjoy eating them. In the summertime, there could be… A lot of people laugh, but they do make forage soybeans and cowpeas that you can plant for your animals, specifically for grazing, that those plants are going to be high in protein, as well. I personally like to use sunn hemp. It is a very tall growing plant, and it could be up to 30% crude protein, you know, at certain points during the summer. Now obviously, the animals don’t need that much protein in their diet, so you could dilute it with something else, but it grows really well in poor soils, and it has a lot of biomass, and it has a lot of proteins, and those three are summer legumes that you would use as annuals. If you have alfalfa—your listeners may be in an area where alfalfa grows really well. Alfalfa obviously is a very high protein, a very good, nutritious forage to feed, as well.

Deborah Niemann  20:21 
So, if you’re in an area with alfalfa, where it’s in your pasture, and you have a freeze? I’ve heard some people say that if alfalfa freezes, that the goats shouldn’t—or animals shouldn’t—eat it after that, because it can cause bloat or something. Is that accurate?

Heather Glennon  20:38 
I can’t speak to that. I’m not exactly sure of alfalfa. I’ve not heard that alfalfa will cause that problem in animals. What I have heard is, there is the possibility for prussic acid poisoning if you are using the sorghums, or the Sudan grasses, or the hybrid sorghum-sudan. When it freezes on those, then the cells are going to be disrupted in the plant, and you could actually kill your animals—if they graze it—through prussic acid poisoning.

Deborah Niemann  21:07 
Okay. That is good to know.

Deborah Niemann  21:10 
Do you want to talk a little bit about mixed-species grazing to help with parasite control? I know a lot of times people are worried about, like, their cows giving parasites to their goats, or pigs giving parasites to goats, and so on. And, the reality is, this can actually be helpful, right?

Heather Glennon  21:28 
Most definitely. If you are set up and you have appropriate fencing and shelter to run small ruminants with either cattle or horses, then you’re going to do yourself a favor by allowing them to graze on the same piece of land. And, I’ll explain a little bit how that works.

Heather Glennon  21:45 
So, sheep and goats share parasite species, and so they can pass them back and forth. When a goat grazes, and it deficates the worm eggs on the ground, the sheep can actually get reinfected with those parasites. But, if you were to have a goat graze and defecate, if you had cows and they grazed right behind those goats, they could actually ingest those infective larvae from the goats, and those larvae will actually die inside of the cattle; they cannot complete their lifecycle. Some people call them “dead-end hosts.” There’s other names for them. But, you can kind of use your cattle to “clean up” your pastures, because they will eat the infective larvae that had belonged to the goats. And then, when the goats come back to that pasture, there’s less contamination and less risk for them to reinfect themselves. So, horses are another option. You could use horses and sheep and goats together.

Heather Glennon  22:42 
Young cattle can potentially pick up Haemonchus contortus, which is the really bad parasite that we worry about with sheep and goats. And so, young cattle or calves may not be the best option to mixed-species graze, just because they can pick up the Haemonchus contortus, and it could potentially harm them. But, adult cattle would be wonderful, or equine species. The thing to remember is, you have to look at your fencing. The fencing that works for cattle might not work for your small ruminants, and vice versa. 

Deborah Niemann  23:15  
That is a very good point. We had cows for about 12 years, and I had a very hard time saying I wanted to get rid of the cows, because I knew they were a really important part of our rotational grazing system. But, the cows kept getting out. Because, as you said, fencing that is good for goats is not necessarily the same that’s good for cows, and vice versa. And, I ultimately decided to do it, because I didn’t want to find myself on the six o’clock news with my cows all over the interstate, you know, because the cows were getting out way too often. 

Deborah Niemann  23:53  
You know, it’s funny: People complain about goats and say they’re hard to fence in. But the truth is, any species is hard to fence in if you don’t have the ideal fencing for them, and we just got so lucky that every time the cows got out, there were multiple people home. I even have a picture of, like, all five of us walking down the road with our cows, bringing them home one time.

Heather Glennon  24:14  
Yeah, that’s a phone call you don’t want to get. I got one last week that said all of my goats were out. And luckily, they found a lot of browse to eat, and I didn’t have to worry about them getting in the road, but it makes your heart drop for sure.

Deborah Niemann  24:25  
Yeah, exactly. So, that’s why I finally just said, “All right, I can’t do this anymore. I gotta say ‘bye’ to the cows.” Because, I find the goats way easier to put back in. All I have to do with the goats is take some grain out there, shake a pan, and they follow me like the Pied Piper.

Heather Glennon  24:40  
Exactly. One area that I would like to explore is following the sheep and the goats with poultry. And, there probably are some folks are researching that and looking at that right now. But, I would like to figure out… Because, you know, when the chickens scratch the ground and pull apart the fecal pellets, they are actually desiccating the eggs or the larvae, and so they could essentially kill the parasite larvae on the pasture. And, I’m just not sure what kind of stocking rate I’d need for my chickens to follow my small ruminants in order for them to decrease the parasite contamination on the field. But, that’s one area that I think is going to get more consideration in the future.

Deborah Niemann  25:19  
Yeah, that is a really good point. I know some people mistakenly think that chickens can eat the parasite eggs, but they’re microscopic. So, you know, chickens are great at eating fly larvae, because they can see that. So, it was perfect, what you just said, about how when they do scratch apart those fecal pellets, that they are exposing the eggs to the air. And, I always say, “Dehydration is the enemy of the eggs and the larvae.” Like, that’s what’s gonna kill them. If they’re just sitting out in the sun not getting any rain or anything, that they’ll just dry up and then, they die.

Heather Glennon  25:55  
Exactly. If you had the ability to make hay on your pastures or your land in between your grazing sessions, you would be able to open up that canopy a little bit and dry out those larvae and kill them. Definitely.

Deborah Niemann  26:08  
That is a really good point, too. Because sometimes, if people have way more land than they need… There was somebody in my Goats 365 membership a couple years ago who only had, like, five Nubians and 10 acres. And, he was putting them in these huge areas that were way bigger than they needed to be. And so, that would have been a really good example of when you could have, like, harvested hay in between the grazing periods, because there’s no way that five goats need 10 acres.

Heather Glennon  26:37  
I wish we all had that problem there, that we had twice as much land as we had animals, right? The one thing that that person had working for them is that if they had done rotational grazing or intensive grazing and moved them every few days, they would have been able to allow their pastures to rest for a long period of time. And, that could potentially allow some of those larvae to die on top of the soil there while they were grazing other plots of land. And so, a longer rest period is beneficial as well. 

Heather Glennon  27:09  
You just have to take a look at that forage quality. You don’t want to let your pastures go for so long that your plants get too tall and stocky and fibrous that the animals really aren’t getting a lot of nutrition out of it. But, one good thing would be if they’re eating off of the ground. You know, if they’re eating more than 4 inches tall forage, then that will also decrease their contamination risk, as well. So, there’s good and bad each way. But, keeping your stocking density on your pastures at the optimum level is really important. I love goats. And, I know everyone listening loves their goats and may have more goats than they should have for various reasons. But, if you really think about it, you should think about your stocking rate, and how is that impacting your pasture contamination and the health of your younger animals on your farm?

Deborah Niemann  27:58  
Yeah, because I think sometimes people look at it, and they’re like, “Oh, well, if I shouldn’t return goats to an area for a month, then I should take whatever I have and split it up into four paddocks.” But, the reality is that it’s a better idea to have them in an area only long enough for them to, like, eat it all down to the appropriate level, and then move on to the next area. And, that could be way more than just 4 or 8—and really, 4 weeks isn’t enough anyway, if you’re having lots of rain, because then it’s getting rained on all the time, so the longer you can keep them off, the better. So, if someone—like for example, with those five Nubians on 10 acres. It was in Georgia, so they get lots of rain there. I hate to put you on the spot, but is there a better number of, like, paddocks that you would split that up into in terms of, like, striking a balance between good parasite control and good pasture management?

Heather Glennon  28:56  
If it was me, personally, I would attempt to rotate those animals every three days. I don’t like to really leave animals in a paddock for more than three days, because there is that chance of reinfection, because those eggs can turn into larvae in three days. And also, when you leave animals in an area for longer than three days, they start to camp out, find spots, make trails, dig holes, and so they’re disrupting your forage growth as well. So personally, if you have the resources to set up fences and watering systems to be able to move your animals every three days or so, that would be ideal. And, if you see that the forage ahead of you is getting too tall, and you have the ability to A) make hay, or to just bush hog it down and keep it leafier, that would be ideal, as well.

Deborah Niemann  29:47  
And, that’s why I tell people, like, “There’s nothing engraved in stone about the number of days.” You really just have to watch the goats and how long it takes them to eat through something. And, one thing I learned, too, is that you cannot look at the pasture from the side, because for some reason, it always looks like there’s a lot more grass when you’re standing on the side. You go walking in there and stand in the middle of it, and then you’re like, “Whoa, they ate a lot more than I thought they did!”

Heather Glennon  30:13  
Definitely. And, they may eat certain spots over and over and over again, because they like a certain species of grass. So, you really do have to get in there and walk your whole paddock. I have a grazing stick. There are some grazing organizations that have, like, a yardstick with different information on it, or you just take out a ruler, you know, and just pop it down and see kind of what the height of your grass is. Because, maybe your eyes are deceiving you. Maybe you think you’re moving them before 3 or 4 inches of forage is left, but they’re actually grazing it too short. So, if you have the ability to take a little yardstick or ruler out there as you’re walking through, you can kind of keep an eye on that, too. 

Deborah Niemann  30:51  
Yeah. I also noticed that, like, my hand is about 6 inches from the top of my middle finger to my wrist. So, I have that with me all the time, and I can just stick that down there and go, “Oh, no. Too short.”

Heather Glennon  31:03  
Exactly. Exactly.

Deborah Niemann  31:05  
If it doesn’t come all the way to my wrist, I’m like, “It’s time to move on.” 

Deborah Niemann  31:10  
Well, is there anything else that we haven’t touched on that people should know about ideal pasture management?

Heather Glennon  31:17  
I would just recommend that if folks are new to rotational grazing, or are new to pasture forage species, that they talk with their cooperative extension agent. Because, those folks are there to help you identify different species, maybe get your weeds under control, you know, kind of talk about a grazing plan. The USDA NRCS, they have grazing plan specialists in the office that can help you, too. So, I would just mention that if you’re out there, and you’re like, “I have no idea what I’m looking at or where I should even start,” call your extension agent, or maybe one of your USDA personnel in the office, and they would be happy to come out and help you and teach you, as well.

Deborah Niemann  31:58  
And, one thing I just thought about that I learned a few years ago is that in the fall, you don’t want to let your goats eat everything down to the dirt in all your pastures. You hear so many farmers talk about that, you know, like, “Oh, well, in the fall, you just let them go through every pasture,” and they think that they’re saving money on feeding hay. But, the reality is, I took an extension grazing course a few years ago, and I discovered that when you do that, that the grass is gonna get so stressed that it’s actually going to come back much later in the spring than if you had stopped at a more reasonable height. And, sure enough, like, the very next year, I was like, “Okay, this one pasture is gonna be my sacrifice pasture. This is it,” you know? And, it was amazing how much faster I was watching the other ones come back compared to the one that they had eaten down to the ground.

Heather Glennon  32:52  
Most definitely. You have to protect your root growth in your forage species, and especially with sericea lespedeza. That will grow well through the summertime, and in late August, it might still look like it’s got a lot of leaf on it, and you want to get one more grazing out of it, but if you hit it too hard, it’s going to try to use its root reserves to put more leaf out. And, you don’t want that to happen. You want those root reserves to be there to have a strong plant for next year. So, that is definitely something to consider. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face, right?

Deborah Niemann  33:25  
Yeah, exactly. You know, it’s funny, you think, “Oh, something’s invasive,” like sericea lespedeza or even raspberries and blackberries. But, goats can destroy them. You know, we had raspberries and blackberries growing wild in our woods. And, we thought, “Oh, this is nice for the goats.” And yeah, it was very nice for the goats. And, after two years, we had no more raspberries and blackberries.

Heather Glennon  33:50  
Yeah. There’s a lot of folks who get into goats because they want to clear the woods, and the goats basically work themselves out of a job. And so, after the first year or two, there is not a lot of regrowth there in the woods. And so, I tell people, “If you want to use that as a feed source for the summer, you have to stock that really low, maybe even just 2 to 3 goats per acre throughout the summer in the woods, so that they don’t eat everything up, and then it never comes back.” So, you have to be cognizant of that. Yep. 

Deborah Niemann  34:21  
Yeah, because we only had about 10 Nigerian Dwarfs back there in that area. And, it just amazed me how they were able to just completely eradicate all the berries that we loved so much.

Heather Glennon  34:35  
Most definitely.

Deborah Niemann  34:36  
Well, thank you so much for joining us today! This has been so much fun to chat about this and give people a lot to think about in terms of managing their pasture, not only for the parasite control, but also for better pastures.

Heather Glennon  34:49  
Definitely. The two go hand in hand, so it’s great.

Deborah Niemann  34:54  
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit, and you can follow us on Facebook at See you again next time. Bye for now!

Pasture Management for Parasite Control

11 thoughts on “Pasture Management for Parasite Control”

  1. If protein can help a goat handle parasites better, might it be a good idea to feed some orchard grass pellets (10-12% protein) to my bucks in the winter or whenever their forage (summer/fall) appeared less than desireable?

    • Hi Sara!
      Boosting protein when a goat is fighting parasites improves nutritional intake to give them more energy to recover and rebuild lost reserves. When a goat has parasites, or an illness in general, immune system is down, and extra nutrition is very beneficial- just like with us.

      Keeping our goats nutritionally sound year round is one of the most important weapons in helping them fight off parasites. So yes, boosting protein with grass hay or grass pellets, when there is not enough forage/browse to keep them at good body condition, will be beneficial.

  2. Might it be helpful to a paddock after the goats have finished grazing and moved, to mow it so that fecal pellets are more exposed to sunlight and any tall stems that the goats did not eat are taken down? Might this encourage more leafy growth in the plant? We have not done this in the past, only weed eating down some of the tallest grass stems left standing…

  3. Chaffhaye (fermented alfalfa) has made a huge difference for my herd, no more coccidia and better FAMACHA scores all around. It costs about the same as a regular bale of alfalfa hay, but so much more effective from an overall health perspective. I,ve fed alfalfa hay, mixed grass hay, alfalfa pellets, and nothing has had as dramatic effect as the chaffhaye. I practice rotational grazing too, but my current fencing/water situation (4 paddocks) means I have to leave them in an area for 1.5-2 weeks to allow any real amount of rest.

  4. Unfortunately, I live in an area that won’t support lespedeza, so I bought a bag of the pelleted lespedeza and my goats hated it. That was fine though, because it cost a whopping $100 per bag with shipping. I’m currently rotating 7 adults and 6 kids through 7 paddocks on about 2 acres. It’s not ideal but it’s better than nothing and it’s giving the grass better rest periods than I’ve ever been able to before.
    The flip side of this is, I will wind up dry lotting them in winter (as dry as Western Washington can get, that is) and so that the sacrificial paddock doesn’t wind up just totally infested with parasites, that means bringing in a lot of wood chips to keep them out of the mud and eliminate any grass.

    • Hi Gina!
      It sounds like you have a solid plan in place.
      It’s amazing what can be done with smaller properties. Just takes good management and planning!

  5. Do you have any recommendations for people who have backyard homesteads? We currently live in a rental in town and the house sits on about 1/5 to 1/4 acre lot. We have a big garden and chickens and we just earned a Nigerian Dwarf goat due to caring from some goats for a family we know while they were away. I know we need two goats at least, so we plan to get another and will then move both goats onto our property. But seeing as we live on just 1/4 acre at most, with ordinances stating we can’t keep animals in the front yard, which is a large portion of the yard/lot, is there anything we can do to make it work for the goats? We desperately want to be out in the country, but while we can afford to care well for our animals, we just can’t afford to get an entire property in the country. Is there no hope in the goat department for us backyard homesteaders? Would it be cruel to keep them here without having the ideal rotational grazing setup? It’s so hard when you want to provide fresh, nutritious food for your family and are so limited by laws and finances…

    • Hi Nellye
      I can’t really answer this question without know ing exactly how much dedicated space would be available for the goats. If it’s 1/4 acre, with most of it in the front, plus a house, a large garden, and a chicken space, it seems like you may be at max animal capacity already.
      Considering the small area, the goats would definitely need a dedicated dry lot area with no green grass growing from the ground, otherwise they will quickly be full of parasites. They should be kept away from any access to your garden and your chicken feed. They will also need a structure to protect them from the elements. Please do keep in mind that goats poop A LOT. So dry lot and bedding areas must be cleaned regularly.


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