With so many different opinions and not getting any closer to a solution on how to protect my goats from parasites, I finally called the vet I work with most on my goats and requested he come to my farm for a consultation. It was the best thing I could have done. Instead of just stopping in the office and having distractions, it gave him a chance to review the literature. It also gave me time to review all my records, and when he arrived, I could fill him in on all the details, rather than the hit-and-miss that comes with working with multiple vets. If you’re just joining me in this series, you might want to read
What I Had Been Doing
What I had been doing was using the herbal wormer on my adult goats. Towards the end of summer, I would have a couple of goats I’d have to worm. This time of year my pasture isn’t as good a quality (especially in drought years) and they are still raising babies. Kizzy and Dolly get wormed almost every summer.
Most of my adults haven’t been given a chemical wormer in quite some time. In fact, Meg hasn’t had a chemical wormer since 2008. I have things under control with the adults by using the herbal wormer and an occasional worming when someone is sick or run down with kids. Of course, with Iowa State telling me I can’t use Cydectin or it will be ineffective, I didn’t know what to do this summer when I had four goats that I wanted to worm, so I hoped they could hang in until I had the consultation with my vet.
The kids are my main problem. I had been worming them all with a chemical wormer (Ivomec) between ages 6 and 8 weeks. That’s what I did this year with the Valbazen, but it didn’t work for all of them. In the past, by the time they would need wormed again, they would be solidly on the herbal wormer. This worked well until the Ivomec quit working and the Iowa State Vets told me I couldn’t use Cydectin without it becoming ineffective.
I’ve also noticed that the kids born in March are much better off than the ones born in June. Because of pasture conditions, they seem to be out of the worm egg infested barnyard sooner, eat sooner and get on the herbal wormer sooner. In fact, I haven’t wormed any of the three kids left on the farm that were born in March. Myson, who was born last March, has never had a chemical wormer but has some of the reddest eye membranes on the farm.
This year, my three month weight on the March babies is at least an average of 15 – 20 pounds heavier than the June babies. The March moms don’t get as run down either. This is why I would love to have all my kids born in March.
My Vet’s Recommendation
The vet’s recommendation was regularly scheduled de-worming with one wormer that works. He says he uses pancour when his kids are 4 and 8 weeks old. He also regularly worms his adult goats. You have to decide the best time to worm adults. One time that would be the most beneficial is after finishing kidding. Then moving the goats to a fresh pasture would help keep them cleaned out. Rotating pasture is a good way to keep down the exposure to parasites.
Another time is in the fall when they come off pasture for the winter. In my climate, it’s a necessity to dry lot in the winter months. We typically don’t see worm problems this time of year because of the cold and snow, but it’s also because of the life cycle of the Haemonchus. It has to have moisture and grass to complete its life cycle. Dry lotting can eliminate the grass. It does still require good maintenance, or you can end up with the coccidia because of unclean conditions.
Keeping their feed off the ground is another way to help lessen the likelihood of them ingesting worms. I’ve never figured out how to adequately do this.
Another option he outlined was early weaning of kids (when their rumens are functioning and they are able to get their nutrition without nursing). This would allow me to dry lot the kids and possibly use coccidia preventatives in their feed. It also takes the stress off their mothers trying to provide food for themselves and their kids when the pasture quality isn’t as good.
He assures me that if you stick with a wormer that works and you are using routine scheduled worming to clean them all out at the most beneficial times, you will not have problems with resistance that comes with overuse.
My Vet’s Thoughts on the Famacha Charts
I did ask him about the Famacha chart and using eye color as a way to determine worming. He said, and I quote, “I’m not a Famacha man.” (Cue The Village People, Macho Man and everyone sing, “famacha, famacha, man; I’m not a famacha man.) His reasoning is that it isn’t effective with kids. Their blood volume is such that they can go from perfectly fine to dead in two days (Potsie). Also, by the time they show a need to be wormed, they are already run down and likely to continue growing worse (Simon). If you do regularly scheduled worming, you eliminate those problems and don’t risk getting into the cycle of re-woming every couple of weeks.
In adults, he’s still not convinced on the effectiveness of the charts, and added the time consumed by checking eyes every day makes it impractical. It’s easy not to check every day, and by the time someone does decide to check the goat’s eyes, they’ve already seen other signs. He also mentioned that it is subjective. He did nod when I mentioned my Millie goat that was anemic and tested clean. It’s not that uncommon.
My aside. I would guess, if people used both the Famacha followed up by a fecal for confirmation of the results, we’d hear more instances of it not being accurate. It is one tool, and it can help determine the general health of a goat. Kizzy was pure white and skin and bones. I did the fecal, and she had 7 eggs on the slide, which is not consistent with white eyes caused by parasites. She gives everything to her kids, which is why I wanted to retire her this year. I did worm her, however, because any parasite when she’s that anemic is enough to cause her system to crash. I also weaned her kids. If we weren’t in the midst of record heat and I could find a place to shut her in, I might have delayed worming and fed her hard to build her system up, but it was too dangerous with the heat. That’s what I did with her last year (and then I tried retiring her from having babies).
If you are having problems with drug resistant parasites, decide why. Is it because you are not regularly worming all the goats and end up constantly worming one here and there and battling worms because they are quickly reinfested? Did you buy a new animal that brought them onto your property? If it’s from your worming practices (over-worming, using multiple wormers), stop. Figure out a routine worming schedule and stick with it, using only one kind of wormer.
If you don’t know what wormer will work for you, it might not be a bad idea to get some help. See if your vet can send a sample to be tested to discover what drug will work best. Make sure you are doing fecals before and after treating. Find one and stick with it. Do not change between wormers. I cannot emphasize that enough.
Have good management practices. I think one of the best things you can do is to make sure you have good practices in nutrition (feed and mineral supplements) and hygiene (not overcrowding, cleaning out barns). Every summer, Flower goes off grain because she doesn’t want to eat it. I have a very large pasture and she’s content with just browsing, which means she’s not getting herbal wormer. She’s not been wormed with a chemical wormer since she was a baby. I can’t say whether it’s the herbal wormer that protects my adult goats or that they have good nutrition and plenty of space.
Granted, Flower’s not raising kids and it’s easier for her to stay healthy than it is for my moms, but it serves to illustrate that keeping them healthy will help them handle the parasite load they have.
Another note on herbal wormers: not all herbal wormers are created equally, and there is very little research on their effectiveness. I really recommend doing fecals before and after to determine their effectiveness. When in doubt, go with the regularly scheduled worming when it will have the most impact rather than guessing with herbal wormers.
If you don’t have problems with drug resistance, but you don’t have a clear plan for parasite management, get one.
With a huge sigh of relief, I pretty much plan on going back to what I was doing, but using the Cydectin.
- Routine planned worming of kids at 4 and 8 weeks (I will worm all the kids at one time, so they will actually range 4-6 weeks and then 8-10 weeks)
- Use herbal wormer religiously with adults (and kids over 8 weeks)
- Kidding when the pasture conditions will be most beneficial to kid and mom health
- Maintain proper nutrition for good health
- Keep a clean environment (clean barns out; not overgrazing pastures)
- Use fecals to determine need for worming adults
- Find Kizzy a chastity belt because three is way more than the zero kids I planned for her to have
My only hope is that my little Boer girls hadn’t been given Cydectin along with the other drugs. As I was doing some of my most recent research, I found that the information on available wormers I’d been given for the last several years was a bit inaccurate. There are three classes of wormers. You have your white wormers (Pancour and Valbazen). Ivermectin and Cydectin are actually in the same class of wormers, which makes me a bit nervous about whether or not the Cydectin will continue to be effective.
There is, however, another wormer that was widely used in the 1970s, Levamisole (Prohibit). It became ineffective in my part of the world, and it went out of use, which is probably why nobody was talking about it. Now, it’s proving to be effective again. There is hope if we can get people to start using smarter worming practices.