Worms During Kidding Season

Episode 40
For the Love of Goats

Worms during kidding season featured image

Although we are finally getting the word out that current research shows that you should not routinely deworm goats or deworm the whole herd at one time, one of the last old-fashioned ideas about dewormers is still hanging on — the idea that you must deworm all does after kidding (or within a week or two before kidding). The fact that does have often have an increase in their fecal egg counts around the time of kidding has caused people to believe that deworming is necessary. However, this comes from a misunderstanding of how correlation in this case does not mean there is a cause and effect.

Most people are not aware that worms do NOT hatch inside the goat, so more eggs in a fecal does not equal more worms in the goat. Worms need oxygen to hatch, so they only hatch on pasture. That means that the increase in fecal egg count does not cause the poor body condition that you may see in some does after kidding. In this episode, I am once again talking to Susan Schoenian, a sheep and goat specialist at the University of Maryland Research Center, as we talk about how kidding affects a doe’s immune system, as well as what we need to do about it — or not. And what can we do other than administer a dewormer? 

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TRANSCRIPT – Worms During Kidding Season

Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode. I am really excited today to be joined once again by Susan Schoenian from the University of Maryland Research Center. And she is, again, going to be talking about parasites and dewormers and stuff, but with a slightly different twist this time. Today, we are going to be talking about goats with worms after kidding. Welcome to the show again, Susan.

Susan Schoenian 0:45
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Deborah Niemann 0:47
So this is probably, like, the final sacred cow of routine deworming. There are so many people that I have talked to who get it—that, like, they should not be deworming on a schedule. Like, they’re not going to deworm anymore every 60 days or 90 days; they’re not going to deworm seasonally; they’re not going to deworm the whole herd at one time; they’re not going to rotate dewormers; they’re all on board with all the latest research. But they are still going to give those goats a dewormer every time they kid. And that is what we’re going to talk about today. I think this occurs because there’s a lot of misconceptions about the lifecycle of the worms. So that’s one of the things we’re gonna talk about, too. So, for everybody who’s listening, could you just initially talk about the research that shows the periparturient egg rise? Why this is significant, and, like, what happens inside the goat.

Susan Schoenian 1:42
I would say the periparturient egg rise is probably the most significant thing that occurs during the sheep and goat production year from an animal health standpoint. It’s a natural phenomenon. It occurs in sheep, goats, camelids, maybe other species. And basically what it is, is it’s a… you could say a compromise or reduction in immunity to parasites around the time of parturition. Hence, it’s called the “periparturient period.” So that relaxation of immunity occurs probably as early as two weeks before kidding up to about eight weeks after. Probably averages about a month. A lot of research has been done. And I’d be the first one to say that a lot more research has been done with sheep than has been done with goats. But the periparturient egg rise has definitely been demonstrated in goats. And, it’s a relaxation in immunity not only to roundworms, like the barber pole worm, but also to coccidia, which is another pretty significant parasite where goats are concerned. Goats do develop immunity to parasites; they do not develop it as quickly and as completely as other livestock, even including sheep. But they do have some immunity. And it varies by individual and varies by breed. And so it’s that immunity that they have developed with age and exposure that gets compromised at that time. And what we mean by “rise” is, if we do fecal egg counts, we will see elevated levels of eggs and oocysts in their feces. The animal itself may or may not be clinical. It may have symptoms that need to be alleviated by deworming, or it may appear perfectly healthy, but could still be shedding a lot of eggs. And the problem is, when the mama sheds a lot of eggs, particularly if she’s out on pasture, it’s almost like she’s seeding the pasture to grow worms that are gonna affect her offspring as those offspring grow and begin to graze.

Deborah Niemann 3:57
Okay. And, so the problem with this egg rise is not so much inside the goat, it’s what’s happening on the pasture. So, there’s a correlation between a goat kidding and possibly losing weight, or getting diarrhea, not looking so great, and this egg rise. But it’s not necessarily a cause and effect. Like, the real problem is the fact that, if she’s out on pasture, she is dumping a massive number of eggs on the pasture that’s going to cause a problem for not only all the other adult goats, but all the kids running around on the pasture also, right?

Susan Schoenian 4:39
Yeah, it’s a major source of pasture contamination. And I forgot to mention in my first answer, but this periparturient egg rise is also very much tied up with the resumption of the lifecycle of the hypobiotic worms. So, when the climate’s not very conducive for the worms to go through their life cycle—they need warmth and moisture, particularly the barber pole worm needs warmth and moisture. So, when we start to get cooler, we get that first frost, they start to go into an arrested or hypobiotic state. So they’re in the animal, but they’re not sucking blood, they’re not doing anything. And then, when spring rolls around—and spring can be different times in different places, and different times in different years—but as that weather gets warmer, those worms resume their life cycle. So, the periparturient egg rise is, it’s a complicated thing. It’s not totally understood. It’s probably hormonal; it’s probably nutritional; it’s probably seasonal. And it’s almost like the perfect storm. And then, and like I said, some of the females may show clinical signs, and need treated for that reason. But you always have to keep in mind, an animal can have a really good FAMACHA score, you know, like a 1 or 2, not be showing any signs of parasitism, but it could be still shedding a lot of eggs. It’s the difference between resistance and resilience.

Deborah Niemann 6:01
Okay. And so the real problem is not that there’s a gazillion eggs hatching within the goat and causing more blood loss, like in the case of the barber pole worm, but just the fact that their immune system has taken a hit. So, they’ve got the exact same number of live worms in them as they did before they kidded, but their immune system is just not dealing with it as well.

Susan Schoenian 6:29
Right. And then, like I said, at the same time, you could have those hypobiotic worms resuming their lifecycle. So, eggs don’t hatch in the animal. So inside of the animal, you have immature and adult worms, which suck blood, and, you know, cause problems. And then the female worms lay eggs, and then the eggs are in the feces, and of course, that’s how the cycle keeps going. So that periparturient egg rise can be a problem for the dam, but mostly it’s an issue of contaminating the pasture.

Susan Schoenian 7:00
And all of us want to figure out ways that we can have to deworm our animals less. And we really need to focus on trying to keep those levels of infectivity on the pasture low. And, given the fact that the doe is a big source of that infection, we need to have effective ways for managing her during this periparturient period so that we reduce the contamination of pasture that eventually those young kids are going to be grazing. We just did a fact sheet about selecting for resistance in sheep and goats, and we talked about when you could begin selecting, and we kind of agreed: You really can’t begin selecting on goats till they’re at least six months old. So, you’ve got to—you know, even after that kid’s weaned, they’re pretty susceptible. So, if they’re grazing those same pastures that the does were on around that periparturient period, they’re going to have pretty contaminated pastures to graze.

Deborah Niemann 7:54
Right. One of the things that I noticed a long time ago, which now makes perfect sense, is that my goats that were the best producers were the ones that lost the most weight after kidding. And that just fits right in with the fact that it’s, like, they didn’t necessarily have more worms or anything, it’s just that their body was working so hard to produce lots of milk, that their immune system was having trouble fighting off the worms that they had. And I think I’ve seen you say before that this is also the case the more kids they have, or the older the doe is, and then, of course, if they start with poor body conditions it’s just going to go downhill after kidding.

Susan Schoenian 8:39
Absolutely. A female that’s under greater stress, or any animal under greater stress, is going to be more susceptible both in allowing the parasitic infection to take hold as well as causing symptoms. So, high-producing females, whether you’re talking about a meat goat with three kids, or you’re talking about a milk producer that’s one of your higher producers, or maybe a young doe—maybe just a yearling doe that’s got twins—they’re going to have higher egg counts during this period. You have to be really careful about high-producing females if you’re trying to select for parasite resistance, because, again, your best producers are more likely to have high egg counts and may be more likely to be dewormed.

Susan Schoenian 9:25
There’s a number of strategies out there for dealing with the periparturient egg rise. The old recommendation would be to deworm everybody at the time of kidding. And I’m not saying never never do that, because somebody could have a bad enough situation where that might be warranted. But it would be very important that they then put them on a contaminated pasture. But, some of the strategies deal with the stress of the animal, like, making sure you deworm that doe with three or more babies. Making sure you target your highest-producing dairy goats for deworming. Making sure you target that young one, like, again, that yearling that kids for the first time. But those are some of the strategies versus that old strategy of deworming everybody. Because we always need to remind ourselves: It’s deworming everybody and deworming frequently that got us to where we are now, which is very high levels of resistance to the dewormers. So we got to remember how we got there, and so we have to always try to figure out ways to keep it from getting worse.

Deborah Niemann 10:36
Right. I get really freaked out when I hear people talking about doing any kind of deworming routinely, because that was what we were doing back in the early 2000s. And we wound up with complete dewormer resistance. So, we could use dewormers, but it wasn’t gonna do any good. Like, we were seeing no improvement. And so, one of the things that we did to deal with that was we focused all of our kidding in January and February. And we are in Illinois. And so that meant we were going to be kidding at, you know, well-below freezing. In January and February, we even have temperatures below 0. And that totally turned things around for us. And so, I know that’s one of the things—kidding when your goats are not on pasture. Like, everything’s covered in snow here right now—has been for the last couple of months, snow and or ice—and so there is zero risk of reinfection of worms from our pasture right now.

Susan Schoenian 11:39
Because you specifically talked about two strategies for dealing with a periparturient egg rise. One is the lamb or kid—excuse me, by habit I’m saying “lamb and kid.” But it’s kidding at a time of the year when the parasites are not active, regardless of where you kid. But, normally, if you kid in the winter, you’re gonna kid inside. And then the other is to be kidding off of pasture. And that can occur in spring; that can occur in March. Where you simply keep the animals inside, or in dry lot—and by “dry lot” I mean no grazing, none—and you keep them in during that period. Then, whatever eggs they have, they’re going to be deposited in the dry lot or in the barn, and that is not going to be a problem. Now coccidia, obviously, is still something you have to deal with when you have animals in confinement, or in dry lot

Deborah Niemann 12:27

Susan Schoenian 12:28
It’s like managing parasites in general: There’s no one single solution. Every producer has to kind of look at it as a toolbox and figure out the things that they can do. And if somebody doesn’t have a nice facility, they’re not going to kid in Illinois in January. So, you have to find different options. And I don’t know if I’m jumping ahead, but there are a number of options that can help with this periparturient egg rise. Nutrition is a big one. And they have done a lot of research for sheep, but they’ve also done it with goats, that if you increase the content of the protein, or the amount of protein in the late gestation diet, that you can reduce the impact of the periparturient egg rise. And they’ve shown that this is particularly true with bypass protein. So, “bypass protein” is a protein that escapes the rumen and is digested further down in the digestive system. So increasing the protein is a way to deal with that, as well.

Deborah Niemann 13:29
Could you give us an example of a bypass protein?

Susan Schoenian 13:32
Well, the one that has the most is fish meal. So animal proteins, which we can’t really feed anymore, with the exception of something like fish meal, had the highest levels of bypass protein. But there are higher levels of bypass protein in things like distillers grains—kind of more of a, I’m going to call, more of our “nontraditional” feeds. But if you find a book or a fact sheet that has the nutrient composition of feeds, it’ll give you the percent bypass protein. I mean, soybean meal has bypass protein. So that’s probably the best, but just, again, increasing the protein because—in particular, with the barber pole worm as a blood-sucking parasite—protein metabolism is a very big issue. And, you know, if you look up the nutrient requirements of goats, for example, they’re based on that goat living in a pristine environment with no parasites. So protein requirements are only higher than what you see in the book if they are under stress. So that is another strategy. And that’s one I use on my farm, is protein. The other one gets back to what we were talking about a little earlier, and that is deworming as a strategy. But I think both you and I would agree, we’d recommend against that deworming everybody.

Deborah Niemann 14:47

Susan Schoenian 14:48
And one of the things we need to broaden our thought a little bit on: If we look at something like the FAMACHA system, and we say, “Well, that tells us who to deworm.” Well, I like thinking, too, at times, “I just don’t want to make a decision of who to deworms; sometimes I want to make a decision or who not to deworm.” And I know it sounds the same, but it’s not. For example, if I really thought I needed to deworm my goats prior to or at the time of kidding, then what I would need to do is pick some out that I don’t deworm. Research in Australia, New Zealand—and I’ll tell you, most of it’s been done with sheep—but they say if you leave 10% to 20% of the group un-dewormed, then that is sufficient to maintain what we call “refugia” on pasture. Refugia are the worms that have never been exposed to the dewormer. So, if you have a doe, you know, a four-year-old doe, and she has a single kid, or she’s just an average milker, and she’s in decent body condition, then I can probably leave her untreated. And again, getting back to that idea of: If I’m going to use deworming as the strategy, focusing on those does that are under most stress. Or, maybe you have some different breeds. And we know there’s some differences among breeds. So you can, you know, use some of those things to make your decision on who to deworm. And, like I said, if it’s an extreme circumstance—I mean, you’re in the deep south, and you kind of feel like you have to do everyone, at least don’t put them on a clean pasture. And the reason I say that is, if they go on a clean pasture, the eggs that they deposit onto that pasture, those eggs are going to become larvae and worms that are resistant to those dewormers. It’s not like deworming is taboo and we’re gonna put you in jail. We just need to put more thought to it.

Deborah Niemann 16:37
Yeah, it’s kind of interesting, and there’s definitely genetic differences. It’s funny, I noticed when… I raised Shetland sheep for twelve years, and the only ones that usually needed deworming among those were the old ones that were, like, over eight years old. Whereas, with my goats now, typically the only ones that ever need to be dewormed are, like, yearlings when they freshen. And the rest of them tend to do quite well. And it’s kind of funny, when I look at, like, the production aspect of it and how that relates, because I know I had some goats that just seemed like every time they kidded, they would get so insanely skinny, and they were my best producers. Before I made that little correlation there that, like, the best producers were having the worst time with worms after kidding. And, what was really funny about that, is that, like, one of those goats—after I retired her the last time she kidded, she was ten years old. And, once that goat was no longer kidding anymore, I mean, she went from just being a goat I worried about all the time to being one of the best-looking goats out there. And she lived to be sixteen and a half. And, I think, maybe I gave her a dewormer once or twice in that last six years. There are so many things that are different in terms of the genetics. Is there anything else you want to add about the effect that genetics has on goats’ resistance?

Susan Schoenian 18:00
Well, there’s… When we talk genetics, we’re talking primarily about either breeds but then also, again, among individuals. We did a buck test at our research center for eleven years. And the primary focus of that test was to try to identify bucks that were more resistant to parasites, meaning they shed fewer eggs; more resilient to parasites, meaning they had maintained good FAMACHA scores; and good, you know, growth rate on pasture. That was the whole intent of that program, to try to identify these things. And so, any herd can do that. You know, again, there’s some breed choices that can help; crossbreeding can help. There’s a little bit of hybrid vigor with these parasite traits. But then, even within anybody’s herd, you can select for the more resistant. You just have to be careful about the things that you just said: My good producers, my best producers, were the ones that needed dewormed. And you have to make sure that you don’t penalize that good production. And then, the older one, again, that’s a stress. Because some of the things you were talking about are not so much genetics as they are immunity. If you were to pick the two animals on the farm that are the most susceptible to parasites, it would be the kid that’s under six months of age—so he’s had less than six month’s exposure to parasites—and on a low plane of nutrition. And then the other animal would be that high-producing female with triplets—or in the case of a dairy goat, a high-producer—and her nutrition is inadequate. So it’s like you’re combining multiple things. You’re looking at age. You’re looking at how much exposure they’ve had, so again, that’s age. And you’re looking at nutrition. And then, on the productive females—they had developed some immunity with age, but it’s their level of production or their level of stress. And then nutrition. It’s nutrition. You know how they had that old saying, “It’s the economy, stupid”? It’s nutrition, stupid.

Deborah Niemann 20:08

Susan Schoenian 20:09
And one of the most important things you can do as a goat producer is body condition score animals frequently, because it’s an assessment of health, including parasites—particularly with older females. There’s work done in more tropical countries that primarily uses body condition score as a criteria for deworming adult goats. Doesn’t work so well on kids. But on adults. And then, body condition scoring also is a method of kind of assessing your nutrition. You know, most people don’t balance rations for their goats. You got to weigh the goats; you got to weigh the feed; you got to analyze the feed. So, if you don’t do that, you need to have methods to assess whether your nutrition is adequate, and one of the ways is body condition scoring. And, of course, there’s variability within the herd. It’s like, some does, they fatten no matter what, and some does seem like they’re perpetually skinny. And maybe those need to go. You need to have the ones that are in the middle, 2 to 4, ideally not even that big of range. So that can be important. So, nutrition is very important. And, like I said, then the other things are stress and age in terms of immunity.

Susan Schoenian 21:13
And it’s hard to select for resistance in small herds. You know, you may not have a lot of animals. And again, what we’re saying is that high-producer is the most susceptible. And so, in some cases, the place to select is on the buck side, when you think about it, because two reasons: One, he’s hardly ever under stress. He’s, like, sitting on the couch watching TV; he just doesn’t work that hard. And so, you know, he can be where you select on. And then the other important thing is: He’s half the genetics in the herd, depending on how large your herd is. So, one doe’s gonna have two or three kids, and he might be bred to twenty does that produce sixty kids. So, he’s going to represent the genetics in that herd to a very large degree. And if you use him for a couple of years, he’s going to get close to affecting the genetics of 90% of the herd. So, if we can find ways to select on the male, that’s really where we need to be. And then that takes us away from the idea of penalizing, you know, that productive female. You know, like you’ve been saying, she’s the one that needs dewormed. And that’s equally, too, whether you’re talking meat goats or dairy goats. And, if you breed goats to kid for the first time as yearlings, you know, again, I don’t care even whether she has a single, she’s still going to be pretty stressed. So your most productive animals are going to be the ones potentially with the highest egg count, and the most likely to be clinical.

Susan Schoenian 22:43
There has been some effort to… In the Katahdin breed of sheep, they have looked at the genetics of the periparturient egg rise, and they’ve looked at selecting on that as an alternative to actually selecting the lambs. Because, the other challenge we have with selection is it’s painful. I can tell you, for somebody who did a buck test for eleven years, and had bucks that were three to six months of age on pasture, and we’re trying to let them get infected… It was a pretty painful process. There were bucks that excelled. And there were a lot that it was pretty rough. So sometimes, selection on the young stock—you can’t select if you don’t get high enough infection. And so that can be pretty painful. And so, their strategy was: “Well, what about if we select the periparturient female? She’s less likely to be clinical, but her egg counts are going to be high.” Whether that would work with goats, I don’t know. But that’s why I, you know, I really like to emphasize if we could get that selection done on the buck. We’ve got a couple of buck tests on the meat goat side that are selecting for resistance. We have EBVs that nobody really uses—estimated breeding values—that could also be a mechanism to select for parasite resistance. Probably gonna be a lot more challenging on dairy goats, because I don’t know how high a priority parasite resistance is in dairy goats. A lot of dairy goats are raised in confinement, so that’s a bit more challenging. But, if you were developing a set of bucks on your farm, potential breeders, you could do your own little test. You could pull fecals on them, and you could identify the one that’s more resistant.

Deborah Niemann 24:24
And, as you were talking about this, I was just thinking about the fact that, like, I have a buck who is… He’s seven now, and he’s only had a dewormer once, and that was because my husband messed up and he moved the bucks back to a pasture sooner than he should have. But he’s… We’re still doing good. So, I think, like, when you’re talking about individual farms, you basically just find out what works on your farm with your goats. And this is where, like, I recently got an email from somebody who moved from Arizona to, like, the Carolinas, and—

Susan Schoenian 25:02

Deborah Niemann 25:03
Yeah. You know what’s coming, right?

Susan Schoenian 25:05

Deborah Niemann 25:06
And, she is having problems with parasites that she has never seen before. And she’s like, “I don’t understand! I don’t know what to do. I’ve never had problems like this before.” And she’s got the same goats. But, like, she just moved from the desert to a place that’s got a lot of rain and a lot of grass and a lot of worms.

Susan Schoenian 25:23
Right, right. And she brought goats that weren’t used to it.

Deborah Niemann 25:26

Susan Schoenian 25:27
You know, one of the reasons that goats have more problems with parasites than even sheep, which have enough problems: They really, truly are a dry-weather animal. And so, when you look back to their evolution… Couple of things: one being dry-weather animal, and the other being a browser. So, the strategy for goats to avoid getting parasitized from a natural standpoint was simply to avoid ingestion of the parasites by browsing. And then the fact that they evolved more in a dry climate, you know, the exposure wasn’t there, either. So, we raise goats in moist climates; they’re probably more adapted to Arizona, so maybe she should move back—no, just kidding. They are more adapted to dry climates. And so, when we bring them into our moist climates, we’ve got to find strategies. My personal opinion is, the best strategy is genetics. Is finding goats, whatever your breed is, that will adapt to your climate. We’re looking for goats that’ll adapt to our farm and our ways of management. But, before we even think about that, we need to think about animals that will adapt to our environment.

Susan Schoenian 26:32
I don’t mean to pick on Boer goats, but, if we look at… You know, the Boer goat’s been in the United States since about the early 90s, and they’ve made a phenomenal contribution to meat-goat industry—essentially made a meat-goat industry in this country. But they came from a very dry climate, and then their first exposure to the United States was Texas. You know, and so it… We set ourselves up for some big challenges. And so, some people just responded by, you know, they feed them a lot, and they keep them in dry lot, which is certainly a viable method of raising goats. But, if you want to take advantage of pasture, one strategy that we’re gonna have to incorporate is to find those that will do well in our climate. You want to do that, but simultaneously, you want to manage in a way that also reduces their exposure or their level of infectivity. We should never forget that a goat’s a browser. And, when a goat is browsing, and when a goat’s head is off the ground, it is not ingesting infected larvae. You know, the sheep was made to ingest larvae; they graze very close to the ground. Goats are intended to browse. And so, even if your whole place isn’t covered in browse, it’s really useful if you have some browse, you have some taller-growing forages, some methods to keep their head off the ground. You know, I can fit some into the strategy for the periparturient egg rise. Later grazing, I think, is where it tends to fit in more. But we just got to remember what, again, what the goat is. And so, its immunity isn’t as good, because that’s not naturally how it dealt with parasites. So… And the other thing we haven’t talked about yet is: What are some non-drug options?

Deborah Niemann 28:15
Yes! That was the next thing I was gonna ask you about.

Susan Schoenian 28:19
Well, two—a couple of things come to mind. One is: An excessive amount of research has been done with copper oxide wire particles. They have been shown to have efficacy against the barber pole worm. And, unlike sheep, we’re not as concerned about copper toxicity. So they can be used for deworming, either alone, or probably better yet, in combination with a dewormer. I wish there was more research on this. But there’s a little bit of research with sheep that shows that when you combine copper with a dewormer that doesn’t have very high efficacy, that they’ve gotten pretty good results. If you do do that, you want to make sure you break the boluses down into appropriate doses, which is about 1/2 to 1 gram for a kid and about 1 to 2 grams for an adult. So, you don’t want to use those 4-gram boluses that are out there. So that is one option. The other option is BioWorma. So BioWorma is the only product that actually targets parasites when they’re out in their “free-living stage” out on the pasture. So BioWorma is a fungus. It’s a feed-through product, so you feed it to the goat. Does nothing to the goat. The goat needs dewormed; you still have to deworm it. It’s going to survive the digestive system of the goat, or any other animal, and when the goat poops, the fungus is in the poop. And, when the eggs in that manure hatch, the fungus is going to trap and kill those little buggers. Is it going to kill 100%? No, but it’s going to kill pretty high numbers. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to reduce what’s on the pasture—not necessarily eliminate it. We still want them to be exposed so they can develop immunity, but we want to have those levels low enough so that they don’t get clinical. And there’s two products that can be used. And a lot of people say, “Well, they’re just too expensive.” Well, they’re certainly more expensive than dewormers. But you have to ask yourself, you know, how much money are you losing already because of parasites?

Susan Schoenian 30:24
The other thing about cost is: There are ways to save money. You buy it in bulk. You buy a product that can be blended into the feed. There’s research that’s now looking at feeding it for two weeks out of the month instead of four, which would cut the cost in half, if it’s effective. There’s research looking at putting it into mineral products, so that would eliminate the labor costs. And then, the other thing I often think about: Well, maybe you fed it for a year or two, and then, you know, you’re cleaning up your pastures. And it’s just, “Maybe I don’t need to feed it as much later.” And then, we’re talking about the periparturient egg rise. If you fed BioWorma, that’s the time to do it. You know, when we’re expecting those increased egg counts. Now, I’m not going to feed in January. Zero degrees in Illinois. But, if I’m kidding in April, I’d start feeding it two weeks before and feed it through that periparturient period.

Susan Schoenian 31:25
We’d like you to think of the deworming as the last option. And it doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to do it. Because, you’ve got that productive ewe with triplets, or your high-producing doe, and she’s in poor body condition, and she’s anemic. You’re going to shove drugs down their throat. You really have no option. But what we hope is that you can try some of these other options, so that, when we get to that period, yeah, we might have to deworm some, but we don’t have to do wholesale deworming. Anytime you have to deworm a lot of animals, you need to think, “What am I doing wrong? And what do I need to change?” Deborah made a big change when she moved her kidding to the wintertime. So, doesn’t mean everybody could, but if their problems are significant enough, they’re gonna have to find that solution. And it may not always be easy, and it may not always be palatable, but the last thing you can do is just keep deworming animals.

Deborah Niemann 32:24
Right. And I want to mention, too, that if you want to know more about dewormers and using them, Susan did an episode a couple months ago about the appropriate use of dewormers. And I will link to that in the shownotes, as well as the episode that we did on using copper oxide wire particles as a dewormer—that was Episode 30. And last year, at the very beginning, in Episode 6, we had a whole episode on sericea lespedeza, which is another natural dewormer that you could use around the time of kidding to help your animals deal with it at that time.

Susan Schoenian 33:01
Yeah, there’s just a lot of strategies, there’s a lot of options. And I know all of us would just like an A-B-C, or a magic pill, but that’s not how life works. And parasites in goats are complex biological things. Everyone is encouraged to test to see what dewormers work on their farm. Because, if you rely on dewormers as the last stop to save an animal, you’ve got to know that the treatment works. So everyone’s encouraged to test for dewormer resistance. And, I don’t know if you’ve covered that in a prior webinar, but essentially it’s doing before and after fecal egg counts on about fifteen animals, give or take. And there are a number of labs in the U.S., now, that are doing low-cost fecal egg count—just five bucks. We’ve got that posted on the WormX.info website. And you could use that to test for drug resistance, or you could use that to start looking at your animals to select for resistance.

Deborah Niemann 34:04
That is really great information. This has been so helpful! Hopefully, we’ve convinced a few people to not just reach for the dewormer for every goat that kids, to, like, actually look at them just like you would look at any other goat in your herd—you know, the bucks, the kids, the dry does—and only use a dewormer with them when they actually need it. So, thank you very much for joining us today! And, thank you so much for all you do in spreading the word on the research about parasites.

Susan Schoenian 34:36
You’re welcome, and you are doing great things with these podcasts.

Deborah Niemann 34:39
Thank you.

Susan Schoenian 34:40
It’s a pleasure to be here, and I wish everyone good luck with managing parasites. It’s a challenge, and when you do a good job, you deserve a pat on the back.

For the Love of Goats mug
mother goat and her three kids

10 thoughts on “Worms During Kidding Season”

  1. Thanks again for a great podcast!
    Can you comment on the use of herbal dewormers as a routine prevention to parasite problem? Thank you.

  2. I’m curious about your thoughts on clumpy poop in otherwise healthy goats that have good body condition. I have periodic clumping in all my adult goats. Buck, wether, pregnant does, lactating does, and dry non pregnant ones. My vet says to deworm on a schedule, but I don’t think it’s necessary to deworm that often.

    • You are correct that you should NOT be deworming on a schedule. Your vet has not updated his or her goat parasite knowledge since vet school. Things have changed a lot in the last 10-15 years, as lots of worm research has been done in goats and sheep. Basically a dewormer is a drug like antibiotics is a drug, and we only give drugs to sick animals (or people). When you over-use drugs, the drug stops working. Just as we now have antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, we now have dewormer-resistant worms in goats and sheep. So, as we discuss in this podcast (and several others), you ONLY use a dewormer when the goat needs it — they are anemic, are not pooping pebbles, have poor body condition, poor hair coat, and possibly bottle jaw.

      If goats have a problem with worms, they will at least have poor body condition, and if it’s barber pole worm, they will be anemic also and probably pooping like a dog (rather than pebbles).

      If you just see the clumping poop now and then, and your goats are in good condition and not anemic, then the clumping poop can be due to eating too much green grass. It’s more common when goats go out on fresh pasture and over-indulge because their body isn’t accustomed to dealing with a large amount of fresh forage.

      • Thanks so much for this. This is my first year kidding one dairy goat, and based on all your info about worm resistance, I did not automatically reach for a dewormer. I have to get my vet to do the body condition check but will definitely be taking your course. We have way more browse than pasture and max 4 goats, so I really need to understand parasite life cycle as it applies to my situation, because “it depends”

  3. So when we clean out the stalls and throw everything into a large manure pile, how do we control the eggs that will hatch in those manure piles? Is that a concern? Is there something to spray on the piles? The pile is not in the pastures.

    • No, that is not a concern at all — assuming you are not letting your goats eat from the manure pile. When eggs hatch, they mature into larvae, and a goat has to eat the larvae to get infected. Larvae have no legs or fins or other means of movement, so if they are on pasture, they can float up a few inches on the grass when it’s wet, but that’s it. That’s why they say not to let the goats graze the grass shorter than 4 inches. I personally prefer 6 inches just to be safe. This is why rotational grazing is the key to controlling worms in goats.

  4. I have been reading your articles and listening to your podcasst. I will be taking all of your classes on goats also. I will be getting 2 Nigerian Dwarf goats this summer at 12 weeks old. I live in wooded forest area which will allow much browse on trees and shrubs and things but will also have pasture area with weeds and some planted forages for them. Do you think I still need to rotational graze since there are only 2 of them, and hopefully they will spend most of their time in the forest? Thank you so much for your time.

    • It depends on how many acres we are talking about. If it’s a quarter acre, probably not, but if it’s several acres, it’s possible. The other thing is that goats tend to spend a lot of their time in “loafing areas,” such as the space near the water trough or shelter. If you do decide to try this, you should only use a 2-gallon water buck and move it to a new location every day.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found my info helpful!


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