Keeping Dairy Goats on Rotational Pasture 24/7 to Reduce Internal Parasites

| 5/18/2016 9:41:00 AM

Tags: raising livestock, goats, sustainable grazing, dairy goats, animal care, livestock health, Eric Reuter, Missouri,


Rotational grazing can reduce the parasite load of goats, but this is difficult to accomplish with a dairy herd which needs to return to the same location every day for milking. Most dairy setups assume that the goats remain in a permanent shelter or barn overnight, adjacent to the milking area, and are only put out to pasture after milking and returned by evening. This means the goats are spending about half of their time in the same location and bedding, allowing problematic parasites to complete their life cycles and infect the herd.

On our homestead, we developed a pasture-based rotational management system that allowed us to keep the herd on pasture 24/7 during the warm season, significantly reducing our reliance on chemical de-wormers.

The core challenge in reducing many goat parasite loads is breaking the 28-day lifecycle of the parasites (at least the ones we’ve dealt with). As summarized in a useful article at,  “With few exceptions, the egg once laid, exits the host, hatches in the often hostile environment, then the juvenile larvae must find a way to get inside another host to develop to the adult stage.”

Loosely speaking, if goats are still living or eating in the same location after a month, they risk being re-infected by parasites. If the herd has moved on, the juvenile larvae will find no hosts.

Keeping the herd moving mimics the natural behavior of their wild relatives (such as mountain goats or deer), which do not confine themselves to feeding or sleeping in the same location year-round. As stated on the same site linked above, “in natural conditions the odds are against larvae surviving long enough to find the correct host.”

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