Worms – Visible Signs and Treatment by Irene Ramsay

First up, it helps to keep daily records of the milk each doe gives. Simplest way is a 14-column cash book, which gives you morning and evening columns for a week. Get into the habit of using this twice a day, and you can note all sorts of other things at the same time, like worming, foot-trimming, coming on heat, and the weather. You need to allow that the weather will affect yields even if the goats spend most of their time indoors. Excessive cold, heat or wind affect yields.

Rightoh, now you’ve got some idea of what to expect milk-wise, watch the yields carefully. If a doe’s yield drops when no-one else’s does, have a think. Has she done something different from the others in the previous 24-hours? Like:

  • mischief
  • visiting a buck
  • going to a show
  • Is she in heat, or has she just gone off?

Any of these, her yield should come back up in 24-hours. If you’ve eliminated all these:

  • is she eating her ration as eagerly as usual?
  • Or is she a little slow, or even not interested?
  • Are her ears drooping?
  • Is her head down?
  • Does she look hollower than usual behind the ribs?
  • Is her back slightly arched?
  • Is her fur sticking up like she had the shivers?
  • Is she tending to cower away from the others if they are being rambunctious?
  • Has her udder texture changed? (This one is rare, but my current queen doe’s teats and udder feel thicker when she needs worming. They are back to normal 24-hours after worming.)
  • Has she a frown between her eyesAre her lips tight (unhappy) or smiling?
  • Are her eyes introspective instead of inquisitive?
  • Put it this way, does she look like you feel when you’ve got a rampageous belly-ache?
  • Check the insides of her eyelids. If they are pale, that’s anaemia, and it is usually worms.

I found this a great indicator where I lived for 32 years, because all the minerals were marginal, and unwellness in an animal immediately showed up in the eyelids. However, the minerals where I now live are so good that I have to judge by the body language only.

Worm the goat, note the wormer used, the date given, and the amount given. This is important because you need to know:

  • Is the wormer working? (Her not-well symmptoms should fade/disappear in 12-24 hours.)
  • Did you give enough? If you didn’t, she won’t improve.
  • How long before the doe shows similar signs?
  • If she improves for a week, then starts to go down again, she shows signs that she has had hibernating worms, so worm her again. That should bring her right, but occasionally a doe has even more hibernators which pop up when you zonk these ones, so you’ll have to do her again in a week if she shows symptoms.

Consider what happens when a bear emerges from hibernation in the spring, it is ferociously hungry and in attack mode. Hibernating stomach worms are the same. If those already feeding are eliminated, the others emerge in vast numbers and all latch on at once sucking blood like fury. They aren’t going to show up in a faecal for at least another 2 weeks after they’ve latched on because they have to mature to lay eggs to show up in the faecal. By that time a goat can be long dead of blood loss and shock. So you can’t wait on science, you have to use your eyes and instincts.

Anyway, whatever is wrong with a goat, a good worming doesn’t go amiss, simply because an ailment means stress, and stress has all the worms yelling “Let’s have an Orgy!!!!” so even if the goat didn’t have a worm problem before it got unwell, or kidded, it will have in 24-hours or so. Better to stop the little sods in their tracks before they get started.

If the eyelids have a yellowish tinge, whether pink or pale, the liver is upset – do you have liver fluke in your area, or did the goat come from an area with fluke? If this is a possibility, worm with a flukocide as well. Keep a note of the fluke worming as you will have to repeat it according to instructions on the container or by your vet or extension agent who know the needs or your area. If they aren’t knowledgeable about goats, ask about sheep, alpacas and ponies. Their reactions to worms in your area will be more helpful than cattle, because sheep, alpacas/llamas, ponies and goats like their herbage in a less lush state than cattle.

Apart from milk yield, obviously, the same body language symptoms show up in kids, dry stock and bucks. You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned droppings so far. That’s because the body language stuff generally shows up long before the droppings change in appearance/consistency/colour/smell. However, you do get the odd goat that suddenly just goes Splat! with no previous indication. The earliest change in droppings that indicates worms looks like fine threads like your glue-gun does (only tinted), and these threads tangle round the nannyberries so they are tangled like a necklace. Other changes like clumps looking like giant boysenberries, or smooth torpedo shapes, or cowpats (splats) are not always worms, they can be spring growth, or pigging out on fruit, or something, so have a think.

Observe. What body language? And if my most temperamental doe decides to send another goat into orbit, chances are I will find that goat with a filthy tail just because the effect of Freni’s head in the guts leads to rapid evacuation of the bowels!

You need to know that a goat’s natural immunity to coccidia is compromised if the intestinal and stomach worm levels are too high. Worming for them allows the immunity to coccidia to kick-in again properly within about 24-hours. Except for young kids (under 6 weeks) it is rare to need to treat for coccidia unless your ground is chronically wet/muddy.

Tapeworms are not normally a problem with goats, as small ruminants tend to evacuate them after a short time anyway, all by themselves. Occasionally an animal will have an enormous load, like the only one I ever knew (belonged to a friend). All her other goats were fine, this one was skinny. Ivomec had just come out and a dose made the most enormous heap of tapeworms come out, and the goat started putting on weight at last. Yeah, I know, Ivomec isn’t supposed to do that, and maybe it was just coincidence that the doe had come to the evacuation point with her tapeworms when she got the sheep oral Ivomec I’ve only twice seen tapeworm segments in any of my goats’ droppings. In both cases I never saw them again and no treatment was given.

Always bear in mind that a healthy goat has pretty much of a symbiotic relationship with its gut parasites. A goat with no gut parasites is no healthier than a goat with too many. An egg count of 500 or less per gram of faeces is healthy. 500-1000 is watch-it. 1000-3500, worming is an idea if the animal is not quite itself. But I had a couple of bucks on 1000 who showed symptoms of needing wormed, while the 3500 count buck who was pigging out on my wormwood did not show symptoms.

Addendum in response to my comment about goats living in harmony with their wormload:

One of the times we were having real bad mineral problems (the time it was the fault of the place that made our special mineral mix), the vet and I did faecals. We did the best, the worst, fattest, thinnest, oldest, youngest, wellest, and sickest of each breed. The sickest Saanen had a nil reading for worms, and the sickest Alpine had a reading of 7500. Everybody else was in between those extremes. Vet kept wandering round saying “It’s Impossible, for such variations to occur.”

But a worm free goat is NOT a healthy goat, any more than an ultra-clean 2-showers a day human is a healthy human. Latest findings are that people should aim at no more than 2-3 showers A WEEK for optimum health. But that’s by the way. We all have microscopic external parasites, for instance, round our eyelashes, and if they diminish in numbers or disappear altogether from excessive cleanliness, serious eye disorders can occur. Same with other parts of the body but that’s the one which sticks in my memory (tv programme when I was a teenager).
Many parasites do live in a symbiotic relationship with their host, until a trigger factor upsets things. The idea is control, not elimination. A goat with no worms is not only not in the best of health, but will come down like a ton of bricks when exposed to worms. Back in 1976, goats in Canterbury only had trichs. Then 3 studs showed at Ellesmere Show, where some very shitty cows were banished from the cow lines and put with the goats. Within 3 months, all 3 studs had goats dying of Ostertagia from the shitty cows. Within a year, all the goats in Canty had them because the 3 studs had the males everybody else used. Not so many years later, 100s of Arapawa goats were removed from the Island because otherwise the Forest Service woul hunt and kill them. Within months, many of them succumbed to Ostertagia, because they’d only had Trichs before. The stress of being captured and confined in paddocks didn’t help, of course, as worms love stress.

– Irene Ramsay.
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I am acquainted with Irene Ramsay through the Holistic Goats list on Yahoo Groups. I read all of her posts as they are always full of wisdom and natural remedies for healing. I am honored that Irene Ramsay has agreed to allow me to publish some of her articles on my website. I hope they will be as helpful to you as they have been to me. Thanks, Irene! Please note that Irene lives in New Zealand and sometimes the items she recommends won’t be available in the US under the same name. Copyright 1974-2020 Irene Ramsay. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy without express permission of the author. Thank you.