Goats are more susceptible to internal parasite than other species of livestock. In order to raise meat goats successfully one must take every precaution to prevent and control losses from internal parasites. There are many things that a meat goat producer needs to know about internal parasites and how to control them.
Good parasite control includes four basics: under stocking, good sanitation, adequate nutrition, and selecting animals with a genetic resistance to parasites. Internal parasites are a greater problem in warm, wet climates. If you wish to raise goats in such an area, we highly recommend you learn as much as possible about management practices for reducing internal parasite problems.
Four excellent publications available free of charge on the internet:
The first one is published by Langston University at https://www.luresext.edu/goats/training/parasites.html.
The second, by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, is available at https://www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/parasitesheep.html.
The third, by Dr. Joan Burk, USDA Dale Bumpers Small Farm Research Center, Booneville, Arkansas, is available at https://www.attra.org/downloads/goat_barber_pole.pdf.
The fourth, by Ann Wells, DVM, Springpond Holistic Animal Health, is available at https://attra.ncat.org/downloads/ruminant/docs/tn/MMGP_manual.pdf
Forages that Help Control Internal Parasites in Goats
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Research at Langston University in Oklahoma, at the Dale Bumpers USDA Research Station in Arkansas, and at Heifer Project international in Arkansas has shown that Serecia Lespedeza and Chicory help control Internal parasites in goats. Based on our experience, we believe that Hop Clover, Korean Lespedeza, Green Pine Needles, and Acorns also help to control worms in goats, but scientific data is not yet available on these plants.
We are sure that there are many other plants out there, which we do not know about, that help with parasite control. Goats will eat these plants readily but only Hop Clover, and Acorns will survive in heavily stocked goat pastures.
Since cattle do not eat many of these plants, running both cattle and goats together is a good way to insure their survival and to reduce parasite problems in both the cattle and the goats. Internal parasites that infect cattle will not infect goats, and those which infect goats will not infect cattle.
Research showing that sericea lespedeza hay is an effective wormer for goats has been done at Fort Valley State University in Texas, Louisiana State University, the Dale Bumpers USDA Research Station in Arkansas, and Auburn University.
Back in the 1960’s, when we first moved to northern Arkansas, some of our neighbors who had milked goats in the 1940’s and 1950’s claimed that one could not keep goats healthy without sericea lespedeza hay. Back then little was known about internal parasites in goats, and no effective worm medications were available. In the late 1960’s we found that our dairy goats milked better on sericea lespedeza hay and hop clover hay than they did on alfalfa hay.
Common sericea lespedeza will not survive when grazed intensively. Auburn University and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station have released a new variety of sericea lespedeza called AU Grazer.
AU Grazer can tolerate heavy grazing or frequent clipping and has thinner and more pliable stems. This variety provides more nutritious forage for goats, with less likelihood of losing the stand from over grazing. While we have a newly established stand of AU Grazer lespedeza, we have not had an opportunity to try grazing it yet.
Sericea lespedeza has also been found to reduce methane emission in goats 30% to 57%, depending on how it is measured.
Worming Meat Goats
It is recommended, by most parasitologists, to change wormers periodically to keep worms from building up a resistance to the medications. Worming only those goats which show symptoms of worms at any one time and not worming the entire herd, will also help prevent the building up of resistance to medications.
We found that worming our entire herd just once per year does not cause a buildup of immunity in worms when using Moxidectin wormer (also sold as Cydectin and Quest.) It is the only wormer we have used for the last twelve years, and it still gets good results. We use it because it is the only wormer that does not kill dung beetles. They are important for removing goat droppings and reducing pasture contamination.
Feeders and water tanks should be built in such a way that goats cannot contaminate their feed or water with their droppings or their feet. The feet of goats always contain droppings. Goats like to paw their feed if they can.
We worm all of our does in late February, just before they start kidding in March. Does are more susceptible to worms at kidding time. Also at this time of the year the weather is cold enough to kill eggs which are passed from the goats in their feces. Worming all the goats at the same time makes it easier to select for parasite resistance.
Selecting Meat Goats for Parasite Resistance
One can greatly improve the parasite resistance of meat goats by selecting and breeding for this trait. Our twelve years of experience in breeding full blood Boers has shown us that the heritability of resistance to internal parasites in Boer goats is much greater than we originally thought it would be. We have made great progress in improving our herd for this trait.
When we first started breeding Boer goats for parasite resistance, we had to worm our goats three times per year. Over a ten year period, we have achieved enough genetic improvement for parasite resistance to be able to worm only once per year. Individual goats which required more frequent worming were culled.
If one worms too often, one is breeding superior worms, not better goats.
Fertility and mothering ability are also very important. Meat goats will not be profitable if they do not have kids, if they do not care for and protect their kids, or if they do not produce enough milk for their kids to grow rapidly. We have found that goats that are parasite resistant are also more fertile and better mothers.
Because the Kiko breed of goat originated in New Zealand which has a warm, wet climate many Kiko breeders insist that Kikos are more resistant to internal parasites than Boers. This might possibly be true when looking at averages, but some of the research done trying to prove this is flawed. No person, who has a basic understanding of population genetics, biometrics, and the history of these two breeds, would even try to prove such a thing.
Both of these breeds were developed very recently by crossing very diverse types of goats. Very little line breeding has been done within either breed to fix certain traits.
Thus, the differences between individual goats within each of these breeds, for resistance to parasites, are much greater than the differences between the breeds. Most of the Kiko breeders in our area were worming their Kikos more often than we wormed our full blood Boer goats. We do believe that Kikos are great meat goats, and the breed is playing a very important role in our meat goat industry.
Parasite resistance is very difficult to measure accurately. Selection for this trait is equally difficult. Nutrition, sanitation, and climate have an impact on parasite resistance in goats. These environmental factors vary greatly from herd to herd and from year to year within a herd.
It is almost impossible to select for this trait when buying goats, especially if one has little information on how the goats were managed or on when and how often they were wormed. This is one reason for not buying breeding stock at sale barns. A second reason is that sale barns are where we and others sell our culls.
Every producer has culls to sell. Even when breeding the best to the best, some of the offspring will be culls. One often has to buy goats and try them out before using them in a breeding program. This can be very expensive and can slow down progress in achieving ones goals. The two most expensive goats we ever bought were culls and were never used in our breeding program.
For those who wish to select and breed meat goats for parasite resistance, the future looks brighter because of very important research currently in progress at Langston University in Langston, Oklahoma. They are trying to develop tools for performance testing bucks and rams for parasite resistance. If successful they will implement a new central sire performance testing program for goats and sheep.
They are also looking for genetic markers that can be used to select goats and sheep for parasite resistance, and they have set up experiments to determine the rate of improvement likely when breeding goats or sheep for parasite resistance. They are working with Boer, Kiko, and Spanish meat goats and with Dorper, Katahdin, and St. Croix hair sheep.
To do this research, Langston University is collaborating with the USDA-ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Arkansas, the Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science, the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics, three goat producers, and three sheep producers. The collaborating producers must have one hundred twenty females in their herd, and must have facilities for pen breeding six groups of animals. The producers must practice good management and must keep good records for progeny ID.
The Importance of Culling
Culling is picking out and putting aside something because it is inferior. When raising livestock one needs to constantly be looking for inferior animals and removing them from the herd. This is the only way one can improve, or even maintain, the quality and profitability of one’s animals. Use of the word cull has negative connotations, and many people don’t like to use it. If you want to be a successful meat goat producer, you better get used to the idea of culling. Get into the mindset of constantly looking for animals that need to be culled.
Culling is more important with meat goats than with dairy goats or other types of livestock. All of our meat goat breeds are composite breeds developed by crossing many diverse types of goats. The development of these breeds began quite recently, and breeders have not had time to fix the desirable characteristics and eliminate the undesirable ones.
Even the best animals from some of the most popular “blood lines” will have offspring with undesirable traits that need to be culled. I put the term “blood lines” in quotes because most meat goat breeders do not know what the term means and are using the term incorrectly. So, be careful when someone tries to sell you “blood lines.” They probably don’t know what they are talking about.
I will point out some of the systems of culling that we use. Our goal is to produce top quality registered Boer bucks for commercial meat goat producers. We are breeding for hardiness, fertility, mothering ability, and resistance to internal parasites. These are very important traits for commercial meat goat producers and are totally ignored by many Boer breeders.
We try to avoid using veterinarians. Our experience has been that veterinarians usually charge more than a goat is worth, and a goat will often end up dying even after being treated by a veterinarian. Keep in mind that veterinarians, together with the veterinary school professors who trained them, are constantly being brainwashed by drug company sales representatives.
Dr. Steve Hart, a goat specialist at Langston University, once suggested, at a meat goat seminar, using a remedy which he called trailermycin (load the sick goat into a trailer and haul it to a sale barn.) We have decided to make trailermycin our drug of choice for everything. Keep in mind also that goats that are well fed stay healthier. Our philosophy is that the microorganisms that medications are designed to .