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Goat parasites, FAMACHA scores, and when to panic

Goats are lovely creatures, extraordinarily social, emotive and amusing. They are also extremely challenging to raise. At the farm, we often make the joke: goats wake up every morning and have a brief meeting on the ways they will try to "unalive" themselves on any particular day. What sort of disasters will they engineer, which fence looks good for getting stuck in, and most frequently: will the parasites that naturally grow in the grass and soil where they eat suddenly become so prevelant, they overwhelm their guts and begin to suck their blood and make them very, very ill.

Goats are ruminants, animals whose digestive system is made up of a four-chambered stomach. So goats, sheep, cattle, deer, giraffes, etc. Goats and sheep are especially suseptible to an overgrowth of parasites. These parasites, if left uncontrolled and untreated, are deadly.

So, okay, then just control and treat them, what's the big deal? Ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hold on, I need to laugh maniacally for two hours. If it was that easy, I wouldn't need to write this article. I would have tons of money!

I would have four more goats than I had in November.

Parasites survive and flourish by invading and infesting on warm-blooded animals and can produce multigenerations within one goat's lifetime. They also have the unique ability to genetically adapt and become resistant to medicine.

Your best bet in defeating them is 1) to know what to look for, 2) to know when to treat, and 3) working daily to minimize their growth.

In this blog, we will talk more about these three strategies, which will hopefully help you avoid the heartbreak of losing a goat to parasite infections.

So, first, familiarize yourself with the FAMACHA method (a near-future post will detail this simply). The FAMACHA method help you determine the level of anemia in a goat on any given day.

Then, utilize fecal egg tests and fecal egg reduction tests (FECs and FERCs, something Bell Family Farm offers to the general public) to pinpoint excactly how serious a parasitic infection is, and determine what kind of de-worming medication is appropriate to use and -- super important -- WHEN to use it. Over deworming, overdosing and not completing a full cycle of treatment can quickly result in resistant worms, and this is when fatalities occur most commonly.

Also, learn about pasture rotation, seasonal parasite outbreaks and keeping feeding and sleeping areas clean of feces. We will also write more about our strategies around these practices in this blog.

Lastly, join us as we begin a new strategy: using BioWorma®, which is a feed additive that contains a naturally occuring fungus that captures and consumes infective worm larvae, including resistant strains. We have ordered and are eagerly awaiting delivery on our first shipment and will chronicle its effectiveness within our herd over the next year.

Oh! And when to panic: Don't. Keep calm. Think logically. Call your veternarian. But also keep in mind that when it comes to maintaining goat health, there is very little easy-to-understand information out there. Your experience will become the best indicator of what to do next.


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