I did it! I did my first fecal exam. It’s something I’d been thinking about for a while. I figured it would not take long for the equipment to pay for itself with the number of goats I have. I looked at quite a few websites and most of the directions are really similar. Here’s how I did it, and it worked well.
You need a microscope. That’s the thing that really had me nervous because my eyes are not great. I was afraid to buy one and then not be able to see. Luckily, I know some science people and I managed to borrow one.
The article I read recommended a power of 40x, but the one I used was 32x. It worked well. I will certainly be getting one for myself. I’ll probably get it from the company I ordered other supplies from, the Carolina Biological Supply Co. You wouldn’t have to order actual science supplies if you are creative and can find similar substitutes. You need a test tube that will hold about 12mL (these are 15), something to hold the test tube, microscope slides and slip covers.
You’ll also need a couple of small containers (I used 1/4 pint jelly jars), a pipette or eye dropper, some cheese cloth (Don’t use the coffee filter you see below because it doesn’t work. You can use a tea strainer.), and an old spoon (I used a plastic one, but you could also use a popsicle stick).
Before you can start, you need to make a float solution.
Making a Float Solution
This is very easy to do. I made mine in a regular quart jar. Fill it about half full with warm tap water.
To the water add 1/4 cup of Epsom salts.
Stir until all the salts have dissolved.
You continue adding 1/4 of a cup of salts and mixing until you can’t get the last little bit to dissolve. You’ll see a few crystals left in the bottom of the jar.
Let the solution sit overnight. It will finish dissolving the last few crystals, and you’ll have a saturated solution of water and Epsom salts. You’re ready to do your exam.
First thing is to gather a fecal sample. I started with Harley.
Aren’t we glad goats make those wonderful berries?
Place the pellets in one of the jars. You only need about four or five. If you have a goat with diarrhea, you can just get a handful in your glove. If you aren’t immediately doing the exam, you can turn the glove inside out when you take it off and cut the finger to squeeze it into the container when you’re ready.
Add about 1/4 cup of the float solution to the jar.
Use your spoon or popsicle stick and smash the berries up.
This is the only part that even looks gross.
Cover the other jar with cheesecloth. You can use a rubber band to hold it.
Strain the mixture through the cheese cloth. It will leave you with a weak tea looking liquid.
Next, use the pipette or eye dropper to draw some of the mixture out of the jar.
Use the pipette to fill the test tube.
Keep filling until the liquid bubbles above the top of the test tube.
Then place the cover slip over the top of the solution and let it sit for about ten minutes.
After it has had time for any eggs to rise to the top, take the slip cover and place it onto the slide.
You might have to use your finger and press gently to get rid of any air bubbles. Then you’re ready to put the slide under the microscope and see what you find.
In my first sample, I was lucky. I actually found one coccidia egg and four or five round worm eggs. It was enough to let me know that I did it correctly, but not enough to make me worry about my pretty Harley girl.
You can use a chart to identify anything you find. The one I used was created by Intervet, the makers of Panacur and Safe-Guard. They also have different directions for doing the worm check.
I printed it out and laminated it. One of the other great sites I visited was The Biology of the Goat. It has directions for doing the fecal exam as well as other great information.
Cleanup isn’t too bad. I just started by swishing the cheesecloth in the toilet and dumping everything in the toilet before washing with dish soap and hot water. Really the whole process was way easier than changing a dirty diaper.
I’m still in no way an expert, but I’m guessing that I’ll be getting a lot of practice in the weeks to come.