Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life goes on, especially for worms

Tennessee Williams died during the night. I'm not surprised, of course. He has been very weak for the past couple days. I appreciate everyone's prayers, thoughts, and suggestions about how to help him. I don't think much would have helped him other than a blood transfusion, because he was so anemic.

As you might imagine, I've been thinking about worms a lot in the past few days. I don't know why I didn't think about this before, but on the Molly's Herbal website, she says that she still uses Ivermectin on a few goats sometimes. If you're familiar with the FAMACHA "smart drenching" protocol, then you know that you only deworm animals that are anemic -- in other words, only the animals that need it. The vet who conducted our FAMACHA training said that she'd been using it for two years and had only used a dewormer on two or three goats during that time. So, I'm wondering if Molly's goats would have had the same outcome, regardless of whether or not they were receiving the herbal dewormer. I wish there were some controlled studies on this.

I know nothing cures 100% of people or animals 100% of the time, but I am disappointed that the fecal egg count was so high after seven days of treatment. If the herbs didn't kill the worms in him, then how would they kill the worms in the other goats on my farm?

I know there are a lot of testimonials on Molly's website, but a lot of those people also talk about having only a few goats. When I had only four goats, I had zero parasites here. In fact, my husband teaches at a community college that has a vet tech program, and he donated a lot of poop for the students to practice on. The vet-professor said they couldn't find any eggs at all in the poop -- and we had never used any type of dewormer for the first year. (Since the students never got to see any eggs, they didn't want any more of our poop.) However, those four goats had a couple acres to themselves, so the environment was very different than it is today. Our third year with goats was very traumatic -- we had three bucks die. All were necropsied, and all died due to parasites.

The second and third buck died in spite of being treated monthly with a dewormer for three months after the first buck died. That's when a vet professor at U of I told me that we would never achieve parasite control with chemicals. We created enough buck pens to rotate them every three weeks (when parasites hatch), and we created new pastures for them. We now have temporary fencing and move them to completely clean ground (our lawn!) in the spring and summer. Obviously, we need to do more.

I certainly don't have the answers when it comes to parasite control, but maybe I have been doing something right, even without realizing it. Unlike a lot of goat breeders who will sell any male as a buck, I decide whether or not a buck gets to keep his testicles based on his dam's conformation and milking ability. Once I decide he will be a buck, he will be a buck forever, even if no one buys him. Some people say they won't sell a buck as a buck unless they'd use him in their own herd, but I wonder how much they really mean that when they're saying that about the majority of their bucks and then quickly castrating any that don't sell by two months of age. This is why I currently have eight bucks -- well, seven now. Most of them were born here. I start using bucks minimally when they're a year or two old, and the more I like what I see in offspring, the more I use them.

Tennessee Williams had only been bred to two does last year and one this year so far (unless he bred someone when he escaped on Christmas Day). His offspring were beautiful, and I had been excited about using him more in the future. Who knows if he was just genetically predisposed to being sensitive to parasites or . . . who knows? But he has been removed from the gene pool at this point. I don't know anyone who is breeding Nigerian dwarves (or another breed of goats) for parasite resistance. Most just accept the use of chemical dewormers as standard operational procedure. But as we're learning to do everything else organically, it is bothering me more and more to have this part of the farm dependent upon chemicals.

Even though the does are essentially clean of parasites right now, I know the parasites will be having a party right after kidding. After the first couple years, I adopted the common practice of using a dewormer as part of the after-kidding ritual. Through my initial "wait-n-see" approach, I learned that 100% of does need deworming after kidding, so waiting seemed pointless. (0% of my ewes need deworming after lambing. Why the difference?) In September when Giselle kidded, I decided to give her no dewormer other than DE in her feed every day, and that worked for about six weeks, then her poop got clumpy. That's when I bought the Molly's and after four days of the Formula #1, the poop was berries again. When I mentioned this to my vet, she said I should have done fecals to verify my observations and see how the egg counts were affected by the treatments. Now I have an idea.

Although I don't have enough goats to do a study that is statistically significant, I am going to split up my does into different treatment groups to see how they respond to different natural deworming treatments after kidding this year. I'm thinking one group will get an herbal treatment and one will get DE. I'll do fecals at kidding and weekly for a month and then another fecal at two months post kidding. Should I have a third group where I do DE and herbal? Forget a control group. I can tell you after eight years that if you do nothing, the does will start pooping clumps and losing weight until they're dewormed. I might finally be able to use all that stuff I learned about research and statistics in grad school.

If you have any suggestions, please chime in!


Heather said...

Have you ever done anything with chickens, ducks, geese, etc. as a means of parasite mgt.? I've read about this, but don't have any personal experience.

When we had a small flock of ducks (6), the area of our large backyard where they free-ranged was free of mole-hills, while the rest of the yard was full of mower hazards. Even that small of a flock did a great job of eating the grubs.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Yes, we have chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese that free range. They do a great job of controlling mosquitoes and even Japanese beetles (turkeys love them!) and other bugs. If they have an effect on the internal parasites, I don't know what it is. Internal parasites are so small -- invisible? -- I'm not even sure if chickens can see them. We also rotate pigs through the buck pens, which is supposed to clean up parasites, since pigs are not susceptible to goat bugs.

Michelle said...

Could the difference between the Shetlands and the Nigerians have anything to do with their hemisphere of origin? In other words, could Shetlands, which originated in the northern hemisphere, be more suited to our weather, our forages, and our parasites than goats developed in the southern hemisphere (if, in fact, they were; I am going by their name, not any knowledge about them)?

At any rate, I think your "private study" is a good idea.

schoonoverfarm said...

Are you going to do a liver copper level? For my Nigerians, this has been an issue. I have had problems with parasites in my Nigerian Dwarfs goats (especially the bucks) but not in my Shetland sheep.

Angela Rountree said...

I would be interested to learn your study results, Deborah. In all the studies I have been able to find, any that were even semi-scientifically designed showed no difference in outcome amongst the herbal wormers (yes, DE and walnut and artemisia) and placebo/control EXCEPT garlic, which suppressed fecal egg counts in lambs. Personally, I am too busy/lazy to squirt garlic juice down all the small ruminants' throats every 3 weeks.

I want to plant sericea lespedeza on our new farm; this is supposed to do an amazing job of suppressing barberpole worms.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Michelle -- excellent observation! I think you could be right about that. I've heard boer goat producers have a lot of trouble with parasites too, and they are also from Africa.

Schoonoverfarm -- I probably would have done a copper level if I hadn't given him a bolus so recently. And don't rule out the possibility of copper deficiency in sheep. One of my ewes (age 7) was in bad shape this summer. Deworming didn't help. Since her black face had faded to white-gray, I decided to try a copper bolus. It worked! Her color came back, and she finally gained weight. It's interesting that you've also had more trouble with parasites in your bucks. I wonder if the hormones make it harder for them to resist the parasites. Someone mentioned the hormones in does cause parasites to reproduce like crazy right after kidding. I wonder if there could be something like that with bucks?

Angela -- I find it interesting that the study on Molly's website claims that herbal works better than chemical, yet the big difference in effectiveness is only seen in two of the six worms they studied. They did not study barberpole, which is my main problem. But in the other four worms, the difference between the two types of dewormers wouldn't be significant in such a small number of goats. The conclusion that I would draw from that study is that both types of dewormer were not very effective for four of the six worms studied. I'm not sure why anyone is excited about that study. It only takes one type of worm to kill your goat, so who really cares if a dewormer works on tapes, if your goat doesn't have tapes? I need something that works on barberpole worms.

As for garlic, if I could just toss a clove of garlic in their feed every day, that would be great. However, I couldn't get my pigs to eat garlic, so I'm not holding out a lot of hope for the goats to like it.

Heather said...

What kind of worms do you have there? Are there regional differences in worms? Clueless beginner here!

Heather said...

Off topic--the NY Times has an article today in the travel section about acorn-eating Spanish pigs, and the delicious ham that results.

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Barberpole worms (haemonchus contortus) cause almost all of our problems. We rarely see anything else. There is also coccidia, but that's not a worm. There are some regional differences in worms, but barberpole is prevalent in a lot of places.

Thanks for the heads up on the NY Times article. I'll have to look it up!

Gizmo said...

So sorry to hear about Tennessee.

I am very interested in your study results. We face the same parasites here....although we do not achieve a true "killing" frost. Given your experience and background, it would give an enormous amount of credibility without the "control group".

Maybe this is the direction you were supposed to go.....instead of teaching at the college. You're still educating - on a MUCH NEEDED subject. :)

Haley said...

I read daily, and she recently did a post on keeping parasites down in lambs using an organic garlic juice drench. Perhaps it would work in goats as well?


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