Goats & Parasites – updated information

Goats & Parasites
by Carrie Eastman

Parasites are all about the immune system. A healthy immune system fights off parasites, and is stimulated by the presence of a small number of parasites.

If the immune system is not the key, then how can you have a field of goats, all exposed to the same parasites, and some show symptoms while others thrive?

I cannot say enough about the importance of copper.  Goats must have healthy copper levels to fight off parasites.  Copper is especially important for immune function. And, because minerals act both synergistically and antagonistically, you also have to look at other minerals that interact with copper. Mulder’s Chart expresses the relationships visually.   To learn more about mineral interactions, also visit Albion Minerals.  Copper can be added to feed, offered free choice or bolused.  I personally prefer free choice, so the goat can choose the most appropriate levels.  I have used both copper sulfate dissolved in water as a free choice and dry copper sulfate added to my free choice mineral mix.   Boluses are also very popular among many producers.  Some breeders prefer to bolus smaller doses several times a year to keep the copper levels more consistent.  Here is an excellent article about copper boluses http://rfaintingfarm.com/copper.html   I continue to experiment with the best approach to copper for my herd.  In general, I feel the research supports that chelated minerals are safer because the excess is easier to excrete.  That being said, copper sulfate has years of use behind it as a free choice option for goats and other livestock.  Each producer has to watch their herd and make their own informed decisions about copper.  If parasites are a problem, the coat is looking bleached out, the hair is fishhooked at the end, or the goat’s tail looks like a fishtail, these are all signs of copper deficiency.  In general, animals with black skin will need up to 8 times more copper than animals with pink skin.

Parasite go through phases of activity that are linked to the moon phases and the time of day. Fecal tests should be done at the same moon stage and same time of day for consistent results. Deworming at the full moon is the most effective, when cell fluid pressure is at peak. If I am doing a multi-day 3 or 7 day deworming, I make sure the full moon falls at the middle of the process.
Rather than deworming by the calendar, deworm as the goats show signs of parasite overload, or if a fecal test reveals a high fecal count.

Dewormers in order of least toxic to most toxic:

1) Montmorillonite/bentonite clay; food grade diatomaceous earth (DE)

2) Herbal dewormers

3) Chemical dewormers

*Piperazine, Thiabendazole, Oxfendazole



*Anthelcide; Oxibendazole


*Moxidectin (moxidectin has a very narrow margin or error and should not be used on overweight or underweight animals)

*In order by reported deaths in any species, with no deaths for Piperazine/Thiabendazole/Oxfendazole to most deaths for Moxidectin

Montmorillonite/bentonite clay has a long history of being used for detoxification and parasite removal. Additionally, this clay is on the FDA Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) list. The clay, when wet, carries a strong negative charge (paramagnetic) which attracts positively-charged toxins and repels parasites (parasites are diamagnetic).  Parasites cannot become resistant to clay.  My favorite pelleted grain ration, my favorite browser/grazer mix; and free choice calcium-phosphorus mixes are all products that contain clay.

Food grade diatomaceous earth works mechanically, by scraping the parasite exoskeleton, causing the parasite to dehydrate and die. There is debate whether DE is effective for goats. For large goat operations, the DE can be milled into the grain, or fed free-choice. DE can be safely fed year round. Always use food grade. DE is also FDA GRAS.  (Studies show mixed results using DE.)  Parasites cannot become resistant to DE.  Goats should not breath in DE dust, so the DE should be dampened with water or otherwise kept from becoming dusty.  I personally mix DE into my free choice minerals, at a rate of 2 cups DE for every 5 pounds of mineral.

I use and love a combination product that contains DE, clay and prebiotics.  Excel can be topdressed or milled into feed.

Herbal remedies are an entire article by themselves. There are many brands and many herbal combinations, using garlic, wormwood, walnut and other herbs. Fiasco Farm sells herbal dewormers and has a good section on parasites. I personally use my favorite herbal detoxifier, except on pregnant does.  In general herbal dewormers should be given as needed, rather than by the calendar, as parasites can develop resistance to herbs also.  Some herbs are not safe during pregnancy, so use professionally prepared mixes or consult with a master herbalist.

Many folks find that pumpkin guts, especially the seeds, are effective against parasites. Acorns, certain types of pine, garlic, cloves,black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) and lespedeza are all mentioned as being effective against parasites.

Here is an excellent article on the effectiveness of lespedeza.  http://www.extension.org/pages/19420/goat-pastures-sericea-lespedeza

 This link leads to an excellent article on parasite control written by a well-known veterinarian homeopath.  http://www.clarkvetclinic.com/images/NATURAL_APPROACHES_TO_PARASITE_CONTROL.doc

With a heavily parasitized goat, start mild and work your way up. Starting with the big guns can lead to a massive parasite die-off, releasing toxins that can kill the goat.

Support the gut after a chemical deworming. Feed a good prebiotic that balances gut pH and encourages healthy gut flora. Also consider adding zeolite (I like ACZ Nano brand) and/or montmorillonite clay or clay/diatomaceous earth blend to the diet for several days, starting 24 hours after the chemical dose, to absorb any residual chemical.

Work on clearing parasites from the soil. Clean up manure if possible, and compost. Try free range chickens, to break up manure, eat parasites and let the eggs dry out. In small areas, spread diatomaceous earth to kill parasites. Rotate pastures, and alternate between browsing and grazing species to break up the parasite life cycle. Certain fertilizers can trigger premature egg hatching, killing the parasites.

Feeding the goats from feeders and hay racks rather than on the ground makes a big difference in parasite exposure also.

In summary, my personal parasite control program is daily DE and clay.  I feed good-quality amino acid chelated minerals with adequate copper. I rotate pastures with horses and manage parasites in the soil and manure. As needed, I use the herbal detoxifier, clay and diatomaceous earth for 7 days (except on pregnant does).  I use a prebiotic during and after the 7 day herbal program.

drug chart

Reference article about chemical parasite control

Copyright ©2016 Carrie Eastman.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

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