by Robert Spencer
||Robert Spencer bottle feeds two baby goats, one dairy and one meat.
Those of you who raise or have raised goats can relate to the challenges faced when attempting to determine the best method to medically treat a goat. When exploring your options for advice there is a veterinarian, an animal scientist (seek out your local university with a School of Agriculture), other producers, and the Internet. You’ll find a different opinion from almost every source. Then there becomes the issue of what medicine may be appropriate for your goat’s ailment. Again, you will find a different opinion from almost every source.
There is also the issue of label versus non-label medication. Very few medicines (antibiotics, wormers, coccidiastats, and etc.) are labeled for use on goats. From the perspective of food safety when treating a potential meat animal with a medication that may or may not affect the ability of safe consumption of meat from that animal, and without proper research, it is unknown how long the withdrawal time might be once the goat has been treated with an off-label medicine.
There are also herbal medicines but the controversy continues on how effective they may or may not be. Like one parasitologist responded when asked about a particular herbal wormer, “I’m sure it worked out well for the company that manufactures it, despite it effectiveness or lack of.”
Eventually goat producers learn to use treatments that seem most logical and what works for them on their farm. That is my reason for discussing home remedies in this article. Home remedies include treatments other producers have tried, or information from the Internet, neither of which may have been scientifically tested nor recommended by a veterinarian. Even they will warn you if a medicine is “off-label.” From a legal standpoint I cannot encourage producers to use home remedies, but I can say on my farm I have used a few myself and they have worked for my situation. One situation I have encountered on my farm is Coccidiosis. I have seen several goats die as the result of being infected by Coccidia. I had animals tested to verify the situation then used the recommended treatment but still had them die. After learning more about Coccidia, I was better able to treat my animals.
The web site for Fiasco Farm tells us the following about the parasite: Coccidia are a protozoan parasite that is almost always present in a goat’s environment. When the goat is infected with these parasites in small numbers, the coccidia causes very little damage and no disease. When a goat is infected in large numbers, this disease is called Coccidiosis.
Please be aware that all goats usually carry a few coccidia. Adult goats have them, but are usually strong enough to resist them. People think of Coccidiosis as a kid “disease” because kids have not built up a strong enough immune system to resist the coccidia yet, this is why kids show more problems with coccidia. If you take a stool sample from your adult goats to the vet and they show a coccidia or two, it is nothing to worry about, it is virtually impossible to eliminate ALL coccidia and worms for a goat (it is normal to have a few). It’s an overload of coccidia or worms that you need to be concerned about and act upon.
Sometimes when goats have coccidiosis they have scours, or diarrhea, some times that is not a symptom but they still have problems with the parasite. Up until the past two years whenever my goats had diarrhea I would immediately begin treating them for coccidiosis, but the treatment would not always stop the scours. Then I realized, they were not dying from the coccidia, they were dying from dehydration as a result of lack of interest in water and the diarrhea.
Some friends of mine (Ken & Pat Motes of Fall River, TN) shared their experience and treatment for goats with diarrhea. They suggested using one part Bismuth Subsalicylate (the pink stomach relief medicine) and one part Spectinomycin (labeled for pigs with scours) as an effective treatment. Since using that combination, the only time that I have followed up with treatment for coccidiosis is when the problem with scours continued.
Goats can get upset stomachs too, just like people, from eating the wrong things. As you read earlier small amounts of coccidia in an animals stomach is normal. It makes sense to prevent an animal from becoming dehydrated and dying, which also gives you more time to have a goat properly diagnosed by a veterinarian to verify the ailment.
Something else I recently heard about is the practice of worming young goats, beginning at just a month or two of age. A friend of mine had a one-month-old goat die unexpectedly, so she took it to a lab to have an autopsy done. They determined it died of an excessive worm burden. From that point on she started worming her young goats beginning at the age of one month. It makes sense that young goats will acquire a worm burden even though they are still nursing. After all, how many of you have seen your young kids (goats) picking up things off the ground and tasting them. Some things they find are tasty so they eat them, other things they spit out.
In the past I refrained from worming my goats until they reached four to six months of age, about the age they are weaned and eating nothing but feed and forages. I noticed my younger goats (two to six months of age) would start out looking really good, then loose their momentum about the time they started putting things in their mouths. This year I started worming my kids (goats) at a young age and their grow-out rate has remained impressive. I plan on implementing this practice next kidding season to see if the same results will occur.
I’ve heard countless stories about owners worming their goats that appear to have a heavy worm burden only to have them die. After worming a goat other things can happen as a result of killing the worms that cause the goat to die. Another friend of mine (Edie Grover of Wetumpka, AL) explained it to me this way: “as the wormer effectively kills the worms in a goat’s stomach those dead worms begin to decay and rot, creating toxins or infectious matter inside the goat’s digestive system. The good news is all the worms are dead; the bad news is your goat is being poisoned or experiencing severe infections inside its digestive tract. So, you still end up with a dead goat, and the worms indirectly caused it.” This all seems logical.
To combat the toxins or infection Edie Grover shared the following options to me: (1) If you suspect your animal has a heavy worm burden and you need to deworm it, give it some antibiotics to fight off the resulting infection or toxins. Also, antibiotics kill off the digestive enzymes inside a goat’s rumen so you will need to give the animal some form of microbial products (viable, naturally occurring microorganisms) to restart their digestive enzymes. (2) Involve deworming in two stages. First give a low dose which kills a small amount of the worms, thereby avoiding the massive load of dead worms, in the digestive tract of a goat. Then follow by a heavy dose, a short time span later, that kills the remaining worms in an animal’s stomach; which allows for the more tolerable passage of dead worms.
Keep in mind all these treatments I have mentioned are experiences shared by other goat producers. These previously mentioned treatments are not endorsed or recommended by a veterinarian! Just because they worked for someone else and my farm situation, does not indicate or imply they will or might work in your farm situation. All of them are simply home remedies.
Those of us familiar with raising goats know the challenges faced with veterinary expenses, limited access to professional information, the limited availability of medicines labeled for goats, and the opportunity for profitability in goat production! I only hope that you enjoy raising goats as much as I do.
Robert Spencer is a goat producer in Tennessee and works in Florence, AL to support his goat habit.