Practically all goat farms have unsustainable devastating animal losses from internal parasites, in particular, Haemonchus contortus (H. contortus) and copper deficiency. A high percentage of goat farms are becoming resistant to dewormers and have begun to turn to copper boluses to treat H. contortus. Now more than ever, goats are becoming deficient or toxic in copper.
The SARE grant require communications with several goat associations, and having lab tests run on goat livers to prove deficiency or toxicity in their goat herd. Most farmers do not do necropsies nor send liver samples due to the extra expense it would add to their budget. Getting liver samples from harvested animals is the only logical, safe way to make the determination of toxicity or deficiency. When goats die prematurely, the cause is almost always assumed to be internal parasites, but if they knew their animals were copper deficient or toxic in copper, rather than overloaded with internal parasites from resistant dewormers, it would be a cheap fix to change treatment procedures to give copper boluses to prevent premature deaths. Currently, there is an overuse of dewormers on goat farms and overuse creates several issues: chemical contaminants in manure which is bad for the soil; reduction of dung beetles; and unsustainable and unnecessary expenses to the producers. But the most important is resistance to dewormers.
Our scientific solution to the problem of copper deficiency versus toxicity and the overuse of dewormers will require working with the South Carolina Veterinary Office to oversee the research, acquire liver samples from harvested goats, and invite members of several goat associations to be part of the research.
Acquired samples will be sent to a private laboratory and the SC Veterinary Office will assess the samples and give a report of the results. The results will show the levels of copper, and levels of compelling and antagonistic minerals. The results will substantiate suspected beliefs, and the report will provide proof to producers what they should be doing regarding deworming versus dosing or not dosing copper to eliminate H. contortus parasites.
Cooperators will send invitations and newsletters to let goat farmers know about the study and get them on board to get liver samples and attend workshops to learn how to do a simple necropsy.
The producers that participate in the research project will be required/asked to keep accurate records of monies spend on dewormers, copper boluses, and dosing supplies. Producer records and the Excel document information will be used to compare year one to year two.
The process is quite simple but time consuming, simply find producers that are about to have a goat harvested, get a run down of their recordkeeping information, and get a liver sample from the abattoir so that the sample can be sent to the Research Laboratory to run a liver panel to determine if the goat is toxic or deficient in copper.
The study of the use of copper is an excellent use for research funds, especially for the goat industry because the goat industry is the only commodity that does not have a national “Checkoff” routine for research and promotion.
In order to get the copper study started, I needed to create a plan and complete the different steps to it and send liver samples to a laboratory for running test for accurate results.
All of the steps mentioned in the proposal, included many visits to farms, connections throughout the goat industry, several workshops and meetings, and mailings. The Southern Goat Producer Association facilitated three workshops for the conversations about copper toxicity versus copper deficiency and deworming regimens. Those workshops were held on January 7, 2019, June 7, 2019 and December 12, 2019; there were about ninety-five attendees in total that received information in 2019 and at least that many in 2018.
We had other events planned in the low country during the fall, but there were too many bad weather events to bring them together. However, the information about the project was disseminated to the South Carolina Meat Goat Association and producers were informed. We received one liver specimen from those producers and they now know about the benefits of getting lab results to determine their animals’ welfare – those same producers will receive the final report.
Up to this point of the grant timeline, I have gathered as much liver materials as possible. I was able to visit approximately thirty farms to talk with goat producers about their deworming and copper protocols and generally inform them about the project.
Michigan State University is running the liver panel tests. The lab results will be forthcoming in a few weeks. The results will be analyzed and we are anxiously waiting to disseminate the final report in March 2020.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Much of this Copper Project is being done through the Southern Goat Producers Association (SGPA) and its membership. Mrs. Langley and the SGPA have hosted two major events that featured copper. Veterinarians and vet technicians presented to SGPA membership plus other goat farmers and three ag related events. Most of the producers that attended the events will be looking forward to the final analysis.
Outreach and results of the project will be reported to SARE. The report will go out to the Clemson Extension (Greenville) Advisory Board meeting, about four hundred South Carolina goat producers, about 1,500 FaceBook followers, and reported to Clemson University Extension Service.
When the results of the analysis are completed, at least one hundred producers will receive the findings.
This project is in the half-way stage and will not be able to assess the sustainability until the Research Laboratory has finished the analysis.
We have no new recommendations at this time.