How to Wage War on Worms and Coccidia in Goats

Reader Contribution by Julia Shewchuk
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Do you know that with each beautiful summer rain millions of little worm eggs are being shed by the worms inside your goats to live in your pastures? Do you know that internal parasites cause more goats to die than the total of the next three leading causes of goat deaths combined? Do you want to know how to win the war on worms? So do I and every other goat farmer and producer on this earth.

Many of my fellow goat friends have lost goats this year due to worms, and these people were not just goat newbies. This spring and summer were wet in the south-east and it made living easy, most of all for the worms and coccidia bacteria. These little critters just love the heat, humidity and the rains, in fact it takes rain for them to hatch and to infect your livestock.

One Barber pole worm alone can lay between 1,000 and 6,000 eggs per day. And of course a goat will not just have one worm. Multiply this by the number of goats you have and realize how many worm eggs you may have on your pastures and pens. Tape worms and other stomach worms don’t cause the deaths that the Barber pole worm does, but they cause diarrhea, unthriftiness and a suppressed immune system.

Coccidia are bacteria that take advantage of a suppressed immune system and cause diarrhea, dehydration and death if not treated quickly. Coccidiosis often piggy-backs on goats having a suppressed immune system from being wormy and take them downhill even faster.

12 Tips to Prevent Worms and Coccidia in Goats

My little blog post is way too short to give you all the answers and information you need to keep your goat herd healthy, but I wrote down 12 tips for you based on our experience that can give you a start and a chance to stay on top of the worms and coccidia.

1. Learn. Go to the American Consortium of Small Ruminant Parasite Control website and read and learn as much as possible. A fabulous six part article has been published by Steve Hart.  Another very good resource on this website is a goat dewormer chart, which lists all the recent wormers and their dosage and how to administer. The members, researchers, scientists, vets and producers who contribute to this website are on the forefront of fighting the goats’ internal parasites, the website and its articles are easy to read and are full of awesome information.

2. Watch. Keep a very close eye on our goat herd. We spot check every goats’ eyelids every couple of weeks per the Famacha method to see if their lower inner eyelids are a nice strong pink color or not. A pale color is an indication of anemia, which could be caused by the barber-pole worm, a bloodsucking worm. It could also have other causes, which also should not be left untreated such as iron deficiency.

We do a safety and health check on all goats four times a day, morning, noon, evening and bed check. This is not involved and doesn’t take a lot of time. We check if any goat is behaving as if it is not feeling well: off feed, standing alone in a corner, head hanging low, tail hanging low, hunched up. If we see any of these signs, then we spring into action and treat. Goats get sick quickly due to their high metabolism, but also recover quickly with speedy treatment.

3. Fecals. We check all goat poop that is not pellets or pine cone (pellets sticking together in the form of a pine cone) under a microscope and count worm eggs and cocci eggs. These are the categories of: “bread loaf poop” (not diarrhea, but comes out and plops down in the shape of a bread loaf), mushy poop (we call it “frozen yogurt”), and diarrhea. We do this right away when we find that poop. This is a “game” of speed and numbers. All goats have some worms and some cocci eggs (as we do!). It is an overabundance of either or both that will cause problems. Learn how to do a fecal so you can find out with what and how much your goat is infected. Then you know whether to treat for worms or cocci, or both and you can do it right away so your goat’s immune system doesn’t get compromised to the point of no return. Now, sometimes diarrhea can also have a different cause, but first rule out the simple ones and then go on to check for other causes. A good microscope can be bought for $100, the supplies needed are simple and cheap. A fecal done by a vet costs about $10 to $15. You do the math.

4. Prevention. We do a group fecal in every goat group about every three to four weeks. We collect a sample of various goat poop piles, mush them up and look at them under the microscope. If there are only a few worm eggs or coccidian eggs, we don’t treat, but if the fecal shows an infestation of one or the other or both, we treat. We treat that group only, not the entire herd. This is compromise to the mantra of “only treat the infected animal.” With over forty goats and running a farm, we just don’t have the time to do a fecal on each goat once a month. So we test the group and treat the group. This, by the way, is a practice endorsed by the ACSRPC.

5. Stock Up. Have the wormer and cocci medication on hand in your medicine cabinet. Don’t wait until you have a sick goat with runny poop to have to order the medication on-line and have to wait two days before it arrives. These extra 48 hours without treatment can be the difference between a quick recovery and a slippery slope towards dehydration.

6. Rotate Pastures. Rotate pastures. We try to leave at least one pasture vacant for 30 days to give it a rest from grazing and we keep it mowed and harrowed to break up the poo and let the sun get to the insides of the poo where most of the worms and eggs are hiding. 30 days is not near enough, considering a worm can live six months or more, but it helps.

7. Rotate Species. We also rotate species through the pastures. After the goats leave a pasture, we rotate in horses or cows or chickens. The worms and cocci are species specific, which means goat worms and cocci cannot live in chickens or cows or vice versa. They are each other’s clean-up crew. The chickens eat the goat worm larvae and worms and they die inside the chicken because the chicken is not its natural host. Bingo. This is a huge help.

8. Copper Bolus. We copper bolus all our goats at least once a year, but most of the time twice a year. Copper oxide wire particles in low doses have been found to help with controlling worms. The emphasis here is on help.

9. Don’t Rotate Wormers. Use the same one until it no longer works, so you don’t create resistance to several types of wormers at once.

10. Give all Wormers Orally. Due to their high metabolism, injected worm medications (whether in the muscle or under the skin) are absorbed before they reach the worms. Pour-ons poured on are not effective for the same reason. Pour-ons given orally are also not effective, because of their oil based carrier, they will be through the intestines and out the other end before they’ve had a chance to work.

11. Don’t Underdose. Buy a weight tape to know the weight of the goat and account for the “spit-out” factor. If a goat weighs 140 pounds and at a dose of 1cc/25 pounds should get 5cc of wormer, give 6 cc. Except for Prohibit (Levamisole). Learn the wormer chart from ACSRPC.

12. Alternative Wormers. Use alternative dewormers in addition to the previously mentioned methods. Lespedeza grass or pellets, a tannin rich grass, is being documented as being very successful in reducing worm egg numbers and coccidia. Research on herbal wormers or diatomaceous earth or garlic is not conclusive and not consistent enough for me to say “yes, use” or “no, don’t use”, although there are many people who give anecdotal evidence and say it works and many other people who say it doesn’t work. We bought it and read the directions and again, for over forty goats, the directions for use were so complicated that we didn’t even try.

Considerations When Worming Goats

Last, but not least, don’t ever let your guard down, and if, which will happen, one of your goat comes down with diarrhea from worms or cocci, find out which it is quickly, and treat aggressively and immediately. Don’t wait for the diarrhea to go away on its own. It won’t. Your goat will become dehydrated. A dehydrated goat is a dead goat.

Isolate the goat, treat with the wormer and/or with the coccidia medication of your choice and provide supportive care such as an injection of banamine to make the goat feel better (as indicated by your vet), give plenty of kaopectate (pepto in a gallon jug), not only to slow the diarrhea but also to protect the lining of the stomach from the damage of the coccidia or worms, give vitamin b-complex and electrolytes and provide a clean and dry environment. Within 48 hours, your goat should be back up and feeling better, eating, and pooping bread loaves. Check with your vet. I always do, he has become a great friend and mentor since I’ve had goats.

No one ever said that goat keeping is easy, and this is one of the hardest parts of goat keeping – keeping them healthy. Stay on it, stay with it, and most important, don’t give up and ask for help early. Don’t accept that your goat has to die from worms and cocci. They don’t.

Hugs as Always from this Goat Nut.

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