NEOSHO, Mo. — The recent wet weather and the warm days to follow usually means an increase in internal parasites or worms in sheep and goats according to Dr. Jodie Pennington, small ruminant educator with Lincoln University Extension.
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.
“In order to control worms, you must set up a deworming and sanitation program and then adhere to it,” said Pennington.
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.
“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,” said Pennington.
There are different types of deworming programs that can be effective for goats. One of the most effective programs includes monitoring the level of parasite eggs in the feces, (fecal egg counts).
This provides an indication of the quantity of worms. 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.
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,” said Pennington.
All dewormers can be effective but presently two of the most effective dewormers are moxidectin and levamisole (which recently came back on the market as a sheep drench). 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 4 to 6 inches above the ground to minimize exposure to larvae of internal parasites which are primarily located in the bottom four inches of grass. Watering troughs should also be constructed to prevent contamination by manure.
“Goats should be dewormed as often as needed to control worms. However, the need for deworming varies greatly among herds, depending on sanitation, forage management, and observation skills of the caretaker,” said Pennington.