Management is what is going to save you the most money,” Ann Wells, DVM, out of Prairie Grove, Ark., said to a group at the Northwest Arkansas Meat Goat Conference Nov. 1. Conference attendees were tuned in to the state of their pastures, the health of their herds, the lack of marketing options in Arkansas for meat goats, and talks of forming a seller’s block to solve that problem.
Wells’ information on herd health management, however, seemed timely since with winter comes more potential conditions for health concerns in the goat herd.
“The key,” she said, “Is to think about how you can avoid purchasing hay, medicine, feed and antibiotics. You are often buying these because you’ve run out of pasture or hay, or because your animal has gotten sick.” But it all boils down to ineffective management, she said.
It’s about managing the system, Wells said, “it’s a holistic approach.” Pasture management, she explained, ties strongly into nutrition. “The most important thing is to inventory what you have. Ask, ‘are my goats going to eat this?’ ‘What will we have in another month (in the pasture)?" Think: Cattle prefer grass, sheep prefer forbs and goats prefer browse. If goats don’t ever have to put their head down, they’re happy, she noted.
Wells' Top Health Tips
1. Sanitation – goats actually prefer “clean and dry,” she said.
2. Observation – Very few animals die acutely with no other symptoms.
3. Vaccinations – Know and understand species the vaccination actually treats and what disease it prevents.
4. Quarantine – New arrivals must be quarantined for 10 days to two weeks, and examined carefully before commingling.
(Check for pink eye, sore mouth, foot rot (mostly in sheep), eyes, mouths, hooves, no lumps, no skin infections.)
Wells noted that stress acts on the animal’s body, causing imbalance. “Under stress, the body produces a reaction which may give rise to symptoms in its attempt to regain equilibrium,” she said.
Often, she said, the best management includes selecting for animals that handle stress better than others. Stressors can be anything from nutrition management, (which, Wells, said, is first, and everything else is second) weather extremes, environmental conditions and genetic conditions such as kidding difficulties and more predisposition to parasites and disease.
Wells stressed the importance of managing parasites, because, “dewormers are losing their effectiveness,” she said. The six areas you can best manage parasites are:
1. Pasture Management
2. Selecting for less parasites (keep and breed goats more resistant to parasites).
3. Keep a low stocking rate, don’t overwhelm your system.
4. Keep the height of the forage they’re grazing high, so they don’t have to ingest the part of the plant where the parasites are living.
5. Utilize frequent rotation in the pasture
6. Graze with multiple species if possible to break up the life-cycle of parasites.
Because of drug resistance, many producers are turning to other methods. Wells’ first suggestion is when one drug stops working, switch classes of drugs. If an animal gets no worse after a deworming, “give TLC, not more dewormer,” she noted. And then, there are alternatives to drugs. Utilization of high-tannin forages can reduce the need for dewormer.
Some natural parasite fighters Wells suggested producers try were chicory, serecia lespedeza and birdsfoot trefoil. These have shown to have a negative impact on worms, Wells said. Other home-remedies include copper oxide and garlic juice.
Wells suggested several websites for holistic methods for parasite treatment and clinical information.