“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Worms and Worming
I apologize in advance as this may be a loooonnnnggg (really long) post. I will try to stick to the point so as not to make it any longer than necessary. Parasites such as worms are a fact of life on a farm. It is how they are managed (yes you must manage your parasites also) that can mean the difference between healthy, thriving animals and not so healthy or dead animals. Livestock are an investment and they are costly to replace, not to mention that our breeding animals are like part of the family. My grandfather always said that if you cannot properly take care of animals then you shouldn't have them. With that being said even though we think we are properly taking care of our animals we might not be because of bad advice. It is best to research on your own and thoroughly understand what you are getting into. So let's get on to worms. Worms exist everywhere and just about every animal on the farm has some. They can be transmitted in all sorts of ways. Some lie dormant in the ground and only cause significant issues when that ground is disturbed by rain or snow (freezing, thawing, spring melt). Slugs and snails are great transporters of worm eggs to plants that normally would not have egg populations on them. It is this reason that I do fecal samples on my caged rabbits. They eat fresh greens that I harvest from around the farm and I have no way of knowing whether the slugs have been crawling on those greens. With that being said, let's go into fecal testing. Every farmer should know how to do a fecal test. A fecal test allows you to properly "manage" your parasite population and its effect on your livestock. You should not worm your animals until they are showing signs of parasite stress and you have done a fecal. It also helps to do a fecal when they are not showing any signs of parasite stress so you can see the normal worm load that does not cause them any problems. This gives you a control to compare too. If you randomly worm, when you don't necessarily need to then you are allowing the parasite population to build up a resistance and this will mean your wormer will stop working when you need it to and you will have to find another one if you can. Some areas of the country are more prone to parasite resistance and problems due to the fact that many worm eggs are killed by cold winters and some areas of the country just don't have cold enough winters to kill off the eggs. I won't go into the process of how to perform a fecal test, but it is really easy and Fias Co. Farm has a good detailed explanation. Or if you are like me and have a very good relationship with your vet you can do like I do. Gather all the samples and run to his office to use his lab and microscope. I do the work myself just using his equipment. Now on to vets. There are very few vets that understand goats and goat problems. Most large animal vets deal with cows and horses. When it comes to goats they have to try to remember that paragraph that they read in vet school umpteen years ago that dealt with goats. Then there are not many vets that have to deal with goats. Let me explain something about veterinary medicine that most people don't know and don't understand. First some background. My major in college was Biology with Zoology as my minor. Why? Because I thought I wanted to become a vet. So every summer from the time I graduated high school all through college every summer I interned with a group of 4 vets. In that group I have seen the very worst and the very best that vet schools can turn out onto the general animal population. One thing that I learned is that there is not much hands on practical training in vet school. In fact, one of the vets that I interned with was a brilliant surgeon, another one was not and was downright deadly in surgery. Yep, I said deadly. I asked one of the other vets how the deadly vet ever graduated vet school when he couldn't even intubate an animal properly. Guess what, a vet doesn't know what kind of surgeon they will be until after they graduate and are in practice. They don't get surgical experience until that point. They go through a rotation in vet school usually after they have decided whether or not they will be a small, large or exotic vet. Every vet goes through the rotation in which they will work in the small animal clinic for a little while, then move to the barn for awhile and then those that want to do exotics kinda have to hope that there are exotic animals around or that the school has an exotic specialist. So in the large animal rotation those students might or might not see a goat. More likely they won't. The reason being is that most goat owners are not going to spend that kind of money taking their animals to the vet school for treatment. Most vet schools concentrate on cows and horses because that is mostly what they see. So vets get very little training for goats and pretty much have to gain the knowledge for themselves. I am lucky in that I have a vet who is an exotics specialist and because of him wanting to specialize in all sorts of animals (he is also the zoo vet) his knowledge base is broader than most. he truly is a brilliant man, but is terrified of horses! Go figure. he doesn't mind elephants, but my stallion scares the daylights out of him. So that is the scoop on why your vet might not really have the knowledge that you think he does or should. Doesn't necessarily mean he is bad vet, just that he might not have experience with that particular animal. Ok, back to worms. While goats are ruminants and use many of the same meds and wormers as cows they are different critters than cows. There are no wormers designed with perfect instructions for goats. Usually we use cattle wormers off label with the dosage adjusted if need be for goats. Usually we have to find that information on our own by talking to breeders who are much more experienced than we are and of course researching online for ourselves. So the bottom line is to educate yourself so that you can second opinion your vet or anyone else that tells you what wormer you need to use. They might be telling you to worm with something that is not a wormer. Know your medications. A farmer and livestock owner has many roles to play, that is why this life is never ever boring. A livestock owner is a caretaker, groom, nutrition specialist, chemist,parasitologist, botanist, vet, midwife, etc. etc. Ok, let's move onto symptoms of a worm infestation. The main symptoms are: dull coat, pale gums, diarrhea, drop in milk production, lack of appetite, listlessness, clumpy stools or chronic coughing (lung worms). There are others but these are the main ones to look for. Of course, if you don't see these and your goat seems off or not quite right it would be a good idea to check a fecal sample to rule out worm infestation. Now, deciding which wormer to use? Check with your vet and a local long time breeder and talk with them about what they use or suggest. Some wormers are better for some worms than others, this is where your fecal test will come in. using a wormer that really only is affective again lungworms does you no good if you have a problem with H.contortus (coccidia). I won't go into all of the different wormers here. Fias Co. Farm has a really great description of chemical and herbal wormers, dosages, withholding times and whether or not it is safe for pregnant does. She has been raising goats a lot longer than I have and defer to her judgement and knowledge. So I think that is a really good chunk of information and that I did really good not rambling. I hope everyone finds it helpful. Blessings from the farm.