Increasing Sustainability of Goats Production through Management of Gastrointestinal Nematodes

Final Report for FS13-272

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information


The Primary animal health issue on many farms in the southeast US is the management of parasites, especially the gastrointestinal worms.  The sub-tropical humid climate of the southern region gives an ideal environment, especially in the summer season for the worms to thrive. The project had 10 goats on pine bark mixed with concentrate as a treatment and another set of 10 goats fed with no pine bark in their concentrate. Data collected include FAMACHA score, body condition, weights, blood and fecal samples. During this study, loses caused by gastrointestinal worms occurred mainly with goats without pine bark and such loses were both direct and indirect. Direct causes included death, poor weight gain, and reproductive ineffectiveness, while indirect were in the form of more labor needs to care for the goats and the susceptibility of goats to secondary problems like running stole.

20% (two out of 10) of goats fed with pine bark were dewormed more often while goats without pine bark were all dewormed with antihelmintic. Most of the differences occurred during the summer months. The fecal test results showed that the worm load in goats during the winter were generally low, less than 1000 fecal egg per gram of feces. Beginning of the summer season, there was an increased level of worms regardless of whether they were on pine bark or not. The goats on pine bark had fecal egg count ranging from 800 to 4000 fecal egg per gram of feces, while those without pine bark ranged from 150 to 1200 fecal egg per gram of feces. The eye color recorded by FAMACHA system correlated with the results of fecal egg count. On the other hand, goats fed with pine bark had a little better body condition, 1.5 to 3 than those on no pine bark, 1.5 to 2.0. The blood samples collected did not give any reasonable results because most of the cells were destroyed either by cold or heat at the time of analysis. The weight of the goats did not show any trend. Sometime they loose weight and sometime they gain weight depending on the available forages. Weight results were not a good indicator of this study. At the end of the second year of the study only two goats were left that had no pine bark fed to them, while four goats were left from the set that were fed with pine bark. It must be noted that not all the goats that died were due to worms, three of those on pine bark died due to weather conditions and three due to worms. Three goats without pine also died during the winter. Generally this study showed the positive effect of goats eating pine bark versus those without.

Project Objectives:

The objective of the project was to identify production cost reduction and increased productivity of goats when pine bark is used as an alternative integrated approach to control gastrointestinal nematodes in goats and reduce parasite resistance to antihelmintic.


Research results and discussion:

It was noted that goats with heavy internal parasite burdens often had poor body condition, rough hair coat, pale mucous membranes (eyes and mouth), sometime diarrhea and nasal discharge, lack of appetite as well as bottle jaws.

In addition, feeding goat with enough forage is a key to goat production for whatever treatments are being administered. Reduction in production cost was evident in that, the labor cost for deworming goats that were on pine bark was less than those without pine bark. As related to goat productivity, more kidding was achieved with goats on pine bark than those without. Pine bark may be as costly as antihelmintic, but the advantage of using pine bark is that it reduced worm resistance in goats over the long term compared to antihelmintic (due to gradually decreasing effectiveness of antihelmintic over time) and will ultimately result in increased numbers of healthy goats on the farm.

The studies faced challenges in 2015 due to a lot of weather related issues, which involved too much rain at times and drought at other times. Drought conditions were a problem during the summer and this led to less forage availability. This also resulted in lowering weights of the goats because the goats were not gaining weight. During the winter period, some goats died which we attributed to cold weather and not the worms because during winter season, the fecal egg count was generally at a minimum.

Participation Summary

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

During the second year, the project goats were kept in the same area, which was mainly a woodland grazing/browsing type of operation. Open pasture spots for pasture grazing were improved with winter and summer forages in 2015. The recommendations from previous years were followed, included improving forage availability and obtaining necessary materials and supplies for the study. A total of 20 goats were used for the study, 10 goats were feed with pine bark and 10 were without pine bark, otherwise they had the same forage to graze and browse.

Education was the most important thing that brought this study to life. Pine bark was viewed as an alternative to antihelmintic. Many goat farmers got familiar with alternative ways to deworm their goats.

The FAMACHA system was the simplest way to identify worming and anaemic goats. Presentations were made to groups of goat producers, which benefited from the information generated from this study. Demonstrations and hands-on workshops were carried out on the farm to show other goat producers how to check for worming goats, weigh goats, deworm goats and check the body condition of goats on their own farms. Many goat producers learned how to take fecal and blood samples for laboratory analysis.

The study is an eye opener for my farm because it gave me the experience to interact with other professionals and goat producers as well as present information to peers and others. In the course of this project I gained information that not only concerned internal parasites, but goats in general.  In addition, going forward, I will continue to teach others of different ways to handle goats in a proper way as far as parasites are concerned.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.