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Parasites can be a big problem for you and your goat herd. We understand how difficult and frustrating it can be to try and find dewormers that will work for your herd in your area. Here is what we have found to be the best goat dewormer available.
How To Find The Best Goat Dewormer
It is one of the worst feelings to have one of your precious Nigerian Dwarf Goats sick and not being able to do much to help her. It is not uncommon at all for goats to carry a certain worm load. It varies from area to area, but since they often eat low to the ground near their poop, it is almost impossible to keep them from getting any parasites.
So, instead of eliminating parasites completely, modern goat farmers have to settle for maintaining a healthy level of parasites. Unfortunately, parasitic life cycles are much, much, MUCH faster than ours or a goats, and can start to develop a resistance to many dewormers.
When do you worm?
Talk to any older farmer and they will likely tell you to worm your livestock on a regular schedule. At one point in time, that worked to keep parasite levels low and was not a problem. However, this overuse of worming medication has led to a huge resistance problem across the country.
Now, it is a better practice to check your goats individually and only treat when you start to notice an issue. A possible exception to this is when you bring in a new goat and they are in quarantine. Although, we would still recommend using your dewormer sparingly.
So, how do you know what symptoms to check for?
The Famacha test is one of the quickest and easiest ways to tell if your goats have an acceptable worm load. You simply pull down your goat’s eyelid, exposing the mucus membrane, and gauge the red color on a scale of 1 to 5. A 1 is a deep red and a 5 is a barely visible pale pink.
One of the more common parasites for goats is the barber pole worm. It gets it’s name because it looks like a barber pole with it’s red and white twisted stripes. The barber pole is an internal parasite that makes small cuts on the inside of the goat’s stomach and feeds off of the blood.
The reason the Famacha scale works so well is it is essentially measuring your animal’s level of anemia. The more pale the eyelid, the more anemic your goat may be. This is more common in the spring and summer when animals are grazing more often.
The University of Rhode Island and Virginia Tech did a study and detailed a process and reference cards. You can find the study here with instructions and pictures.
Diarrhea And/Or Wet Stool
I’m sure you are quite familiar with what it looks like when a goat poops. Small, round pellets that scatter all over the place. It’s like you hit the jackpot on the world’s worst gumball machine.
However, when your goat has a higher worm load than normal they will start to get get diarrhea or their poop will start to clump together. Aside from Famancha, this is generally the first sign you’ll notice when there may be an issue.
A sure fire way to tell if your goat is starting to carry a big worm load is their coat will start to look a bit duller than normal. Generally, a goat will have a thick, shiny, and healthy looking coat.
When they are fighting off parasites, their coat is one of the last places to get any resources and starts to lose it’s luster. Keep an eye out for them looking less vibrant than usual.
Goats are prey animals; meaning that they do not show that they are sick or injured until very late in the game. That is so, in nature, they do not appear to be the weakest member of the herd and susceptible to predator attacks.
So, if you goat is starting to show signs of lethargy, things can be getting worse. They will often separate themselves from the rest of the herd or lag behind when the herd moves to a new grazing spot. You will likely not see them climbing on their toys except to maybe sun themselves. They sun more often and for longer periods of time because their body will not have the energy to maintain a core temperature.
The last sign to look for is weight loss. If you feel along their back, just at the shoulder blades, you can feel a slope of muscle on either side of the spine. The “slope” should feel like a triangle or an “A” shape. If it is more narrow or non-existent, your goat is too thin.
Severe weight loss can lead to other issues with your goat too so we like to add in a little sweet feed or black oil sunflower seed/alfalfa pellet mix to help them get back to a healthy weight.
As we mentioned previously, it isn’t uncommon at all for your livestock to carry a certain level of parasites. You will need to check with your vet to determine what is a healthy versus unhealthy worm load.
If your goats are experiencing any of the above symptoms, or a combination of them, you may want to have your vet run a fecal analysis. This will allow them to approximate the level of parasites in their system and the best course of action.
If you have a microscope, you can also run your own fecals with just a few extra supplies (slides, beakers, test tubes, and glass stirrers). After a while, you will get to understand what a “good” fecal looks like compared to a “bad” fecal and make a treatment plan on your own.
Types of Dewormers
There are several different types of dewormers you should add to your goat medical supplies cabinet. However, we will just focus on 3 (plus one we like to add in) that are most commonly used with goats;
– Ivermectin, or “clear” (example: Cydectin)
– Benzimidazoles, or “white” (example: Valbazen)
– Imidothiazole, or solid (Prohibit, Levamisole, etc)
– Copper bolus supplement
Ivermectin or “Clear” Dewormers
Ivermectin and moxidectin are both macrocyclic lactones and clear dewormers. This is obviously because they are always found as clear gels or liquids. Ivermectin can be used to treat a wide variety of gastrointestinal parasites, as well as, topical pests like lice.
If you are not seeing results from dosing with Ivermectin, you can switch it up and use moxidectin as treatment. Moxidectin is most commonly seen in livestock treatment as Cydectin. Cydectin is a bit more potent than Ivermectin and should not be used at the same time.
Benzimidazoles or “White” Dewormers
Benzimidazoles are known as white dewormers. Dewormers in this class typically are a white liquid or paste. Benzimidazoles contain both fenbendazole (Safe-Guard) and albendazole (Valbazen).
One advantage benzimidazoles have over other dewormers is they are the only ones that treat and eliminate tapeworm. Depending on which one you use a tapeworm treatment regimen lasts 1 to 3 doses .
If you’re does are pregnant you will want to hold off on using Valbazen, or any albendazole. They are known to cause issues and can trigger your goat to abort .
Imidothiazole or Solid Dewormers
Personally, we have had the most luck using Levamisole. Its an older dewormer and has not been used widely in goats. Because of this, most parasites (at least in our area) have not yet built up a resistance to it.
Copper isn’t technically a deworming medication. The reason we include it in this list is because it gives an extra shield of defense for your goats. A copper bolus is a small gel capsule filled with copper shards. If you break one open it is full of bits of metal filings (it kinda looks like the Wooly Willy magnet toys we had when we were kids).
When they goat ingests the bolus, the gel cap dissolves and the copper is dispersed in the goats stomach. Without getting too deep into the science behind it, basically, the copper shards act as tiny little knives and physically cut the parasites up.
Since it is a physical treatment there is not way for the parasite to build up a resistance to them. You can also give these on a schedule. In our area we give copper twice a year but it can vary depending in the amount of copper in the soil. Double check with your vet to make sure.
Pro-tip: Skip the bolus gun and stick the capsule in a marshmallow. Our goats think they’re getting a great and love it!
Some farmers (and even vets) will recommend treating with multiple dewormers. Some will even say to use all 3 of the above at once. Obviously, we think you should defer with your vets judgement if they are used to handling goats.
Over worming contributes to a buildup of resistance very quickly. So, if you are treating with multiple medications at once, in our opinion, you are speeding up the process of resistance in your parasites.
Instead of combing several dewormers, we usually stick with one of the above and add in a copper bolus. The reason for this is parasites can’t build up a resistance to the physical attack of the copper and the combination of two treatments will give your goat the advantage.
If our goat’s eyelids are a little lighter than we would like, we will sometimes give them a triple treatment of dewormer, copper bolus, and Red Cell iron supplement. You can over dose your goat with too much iron so make sure to ask your vet their recommended dose.
These goat dewormers are, in our opinion, the best goat dewormers you can buy. As always, check with your vet to see which of these is most effective in your area as parasites resistance can vary geographically. For additional information, we always use this Cornell study as a good guide for dosing information.