Worm Wars

Yes, it’s that time of year, when many of us are beginning to think about dealing with our animals’ parasites again. Does are kidding, our kids are running around exploring their big, new world—and it won’t be long before the daily temperatures reach 55⁰ and parasites become active. Of course, you’re already having to deal with the ones that spent the winter dormant inside your pregnant does, just waiting for the flood of hormones to wake them up and make them go crazy—they’re hungry after their long winter’s nap, after all.

The J-B Maid Marian and kids at six years of age

There has been a huge shift in thinking about how to best deal with the internal parasites inhabiting our livestock over the past five years or so. Routine de-worming of everybody is out, as is the rotation of anthelmintics (de-wormers). Isn’t it amazing what you can learn with a little bit of research? Come to find out that the recommendations of not many years past actually increased parasites’ resistance, and we’ve found ourselves on the verge of a disaster, not unlike the one we’re facing with antibiotic resistance. Isn’t it funny, too (in a not very amusing way), that what works best in preventing the build-up of parasites and resistance to the de-wormers we use to get rid of them is good, old-fashioned management?

It’s news to many of us, though we really ought to know better, that our animals have developed their own resistance to internal parasites, and that resistance is inherited. Look at your herd, and you will recognize right away the animals that are bomb-proof—nothing ever fazes them, and they never get sick. They are always doing great! Then there are your “Typhoid Mary” types. No matter what you do, they are always just bumping along, one hoof away from disaster. You spend more time doctoring them and taking them to the vet than all the rest, and chances are good that their kids are just like them. Fortunately, most of your animals will be in the average group: They are fine most of the time, though occasionally they will come down with something or need treatment. The good news here is that if you get rid of the sickly ones and their kids, your overall herd will be much healthier—and you will save time and money.

Kingfisher and the herd

There are many good management tools you can use. Never feeding on the ground and having good hay feeders that keep animals from contaminating their hay with feces and urine will go a long way. So will pasture rotation. Keeping manure cleaned up around your outbuildings and in your pastures helps as does making sure water containers cannot be contaminated with manure and are scrubbed regularly.

That brings me back to the subject of those de-wormers. Unfortunately, not many are cleared for use in goats, because little research money has been devoted to goats until very recently—this despite the fact that goats are extremely important food source livestock worldwide. Because of this factor, you will need to consult often with your trusty veterinarian (what would we do without them?) to learn what to do. Most likely, your vet will recommend starting with a routine fecal flotation test to see what parasites are present. Then he can recommend a course of action. Nowadays you may find yourself having to use two separate anthelmintics given together several days in succession and then a follow-up de-worming after another fecal is run to catch the parasites that are left. It’s not fun for anybody, but it must be done if your animals are to remain healthy and produce up to the level they should—otherwise you are throwing money away on a daily basis in feed costs and more.

Just remember, you have plenty of company, and yes, it IS worth it! Your animals will thank you by being the very best they can be, and they will give you satisfaction and peace of mind.