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Small ruminant parasites: Profitability for goats, sheep is impacted by parasites

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Managing goats and sheep for parasites can be key to making a profit, according to a sheep and goat producer from Lexington, Neb.

Parasites can be devastating, so identifying infected animals immediately is important, Neal Amsberry told producers during the 2017 Spring Goat and Sheep Tour near Ravenna, Neb.

Feeding strategies

With spring approaching, new grass is growing, and parasites are coming out of hibernation.

If the grass producers plan to graze is tall, Amsberry told producers to delay grazing goats and sheep until late morning after the dew dries. Parasites tend to congregate in the dew at the end of the stem and will be consumed by the livestock when they eat the grass.

“If the grass is short, worms usually aren’t a problem,” he added. “The sunlight and heat will help control the parasite population.”

Facility design is also important as a prevention method, Amsberry continued.

“I built a facility with bunks on the outside of the fence and wooden posts, so the goats and sheep can’t get out,” he explains.

“It also helps with parasite control because, as long as we feed outside the pen, worm issues will be minimal,” he noted. “Anytime we see a wormy goat, we should cull it.”

Analyzing samples

After battling parasites in his goat herd for a few years, Amsberry purchased a microscope and centrifuge and started analyzing fecal samples himself. What he found was surprising.

“Five percent of my goats were carrying 99 percent of the worm eggs,” he stated. “Once I culled those five percent, which were does, worm issues became non-existent.”

“The key in any operation is to identify which goats are parasite carriers and cull them,” he added.

Like most producers, Amsberry thought goats needed continuous worming.

“Anything that needs to be wormed more than twice a year needs culled,” he stated. “It is an inherited trait. If a doe does well as far as parasites are concerned, her offspring will also do well.”

Worming necessity

Producers can tell if their goats and sheep need worming by pulling down the eyelid and looking at the color of the skin underneath. Pink is good, but if the mucus membrane is more white in color, the animal needs wormed, Amsberry said.

Randy Saner, an Extension specialist in North Platte, Neb. told producers there are some good products on the market to control parasites, but using them too frequently can cause parasites to build up a resistance to the insecticide.

“If that happens, we may need to switch to a different class of insecticide,” he said.

“I would also tell producers to just worm the animals that need it to prevent resistant worms from developing,”Amsberry added. “Also, it is important to use the right dosage. Under-dosing can also cause resistant worms to develop.”

Choosing products

Both Saner and Amsberry encourage producers to evaluate their needs and pick the product that works for them. Producers may want to use an oral product, like Cydectin and drench the livestock.

“A drench works better than a pour-on, especially for sheep,” Saner said. “However, use of a pour-on can also help manage lice and mange.”

Oral products, like Safeguard, do a good job of managing internal parasites, Saner said, but if producers are not getting a 90 percent kill after using the product, the parasites may be building up some resistance, he noted.

Amsberry cautioned producers to read the label before using white oral wormers on gestating ewes and does.

“If we use the wrong product at the wrong time, it can cause abortions. It can also cause hermaphrodites and sterile does and kids,” he stated.

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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