Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
Onion Creek Ranch "Chevon, cabrito, goat... No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™
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A Guide to Raising Healthy Goats

Managing what goats eat and monitoring their fecal egg output are basic tasks necessary to raising healthy goats.

Monitoring fecal egg counts reveals wormload. One of the biggest enemies of goats is the barberpole stomach worm. Haemonchus contortus sucks blood, causing anemia, cutting off oxygen to organs (heart, lung, liver, kidneys, brain, muscles) and killing the goat. Goats can become so heavily wormy that their muscles won't work therefore they can't stand. " Life threatening" best describes what stomach worms are to goats. Stomach worms literally cause goats to lose blood volume and die.

Think of goats as deer. Never over-crowd goats. If you think you can put 5 or 10 goats on an acre of land, ask yourself if you could do that with deer. The answer is a resounding "NO." Goats need space to roam over, eating "from the top down" to avoid the barberpole stomach worms that live at ground level and up to eight inches high on plants and grasses. Goats also need have enough space among herd members to minimize fecal pellet build-up on the ground.

WET = WORMS. Much of the USA is so wet that raising goats successfully is difficult. The heavily vegetative and high rainfall areas along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard are exactly where the barberpole stomach worm thrives.

These areas are not the only places where raising goats is difficult. All goats, regardless of breed, are dry-land animals. Twenty (20) inches of rain a year can be too much for goats unless you've kept the goat population density low, have lots of acreage (no more than two goats per acre and sometimes less), and randomly monitor fecal egg counts under a microscope on a monthly basis.

There is no breed of goat that is resistant to worms, despite some breed advertising making such claims. Haemonchus contortus (barberpole stomach worm) always has the advantage. Do not rely solely on FAMACHA. While it can be a good first-line field test for monitoring wormloads, it does not reflect those worms in the goat that have not yet hatched out and started consuming blood. Fecal counts done under a microscope are the ONLY way to know the exact wormload within a goat.


I receive calls every day from people with goat-health problems. Ninety-nine percent of them think they are dealing with some exotic disease. After 10 minutes of questions about their management policies, I usually determine that the problem is barberpole worm infection. .

WORMY GOATS HAVE COMPROMISED IMMUNE SYSTEMS THAT ALLOW OTHER ILLNESSES TO INVADE THE GOAT'S BODY. The wormload keeps the goat's immune system from successfully fighting diseases.

Just because you gave a dewormer does NOT mean that it worked. Most dewormers have been so overused that they don't work any longer. The white-colored dewormers (Safeguard, Panacur, Valbazen) don't kill stomach worms in 99% of the USA .

With goats, it is almost always the simplest thing. The simplest thing is stomach worms. They are also very deadly. Start monitoring fecal egg counts using a microscope and McMasters gridded slides to keep wormloads under control and you will have healthier goats.

Read my articles on How To Do Your Own Fecals on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com. Buy the MSK-01L microscope with moveable stage, fecal floatation solution, McMasters slides, and other basic supplies, and start doing your own fecal egg counts monthly on a random basis. Learn how to monitor fecal egg loads and you have a fighting chance to stay ahead of blood-sucking stomach worms.

The second step in raising healthy goats involves goat nutrition. Healthy rumens make for healthy goats.

Many goat health problems are rumen based. Overeating disease, diarrhea, toxicity (plant, hay, or grain), listeriosis, goat polio, pregnancy toxemia, ketosis, hypocalcemia (milk fever), floppy kid syndrome, laminitis/founder, ruminal acidosis, bloat, and side effects of antibiotic therapy all are the result of improper feeding that negatively affects good rumen function.

Located on the goat's left side, the rumen manufactures nutrients by using live bacteria (microbes) to convert food matter into nutrition. Working like a fermentation vat and smelling like it, the rumen begins breaking down food using live bacteria shortly after the goat swallows it. The rumen is one of four stomachs (rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum), each of which has a specialized function. When this digestive system's pH gets out of balance -- which is very easy to do -- you have sick and/or dead goats.

Goats eat by foraging for several hours, then while resting, regurgitating a chunk of cud (partially digested food) and chewing it. lf the pH of the rumen becomes acidic (it should be slightly alkaline at about 7.2), the goat can get sick and die. What and how much the goat eats is critical to its overall health. The rumen must be properly fed to keep the live bacteria healthy and active. If the microbes are used up or compromised, undigested food turns toxic and the goat can die.

Too many people think goats can eat anything. NOT true. Goats are very picky eaters because they HAVE to be. Because of their rapid digestive system, many plant materials are not digestible. The slower rumen motility of cattle permits their digestive systems to utilize plant materials that are coarse and high in lignin (indigestible fiber) that goats cannot digest. Read my articles on rumen toxicity on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.

Listen to the rumen's "growling" sounds. A goat with a healthy rumen has terrible breath. Press your hand to the left side of the goat's body to feel rumen movement. The rumen gets visibly larger from morning to night as it fills during the day and the digestive process empties it over night. Learn the recognize the sounds of a healthy rumen versus that of a goat who is grinding its teeth in pain or a rumen that isn't functioning (no movement).

What a goat eats is a major factor in its overall health and longevity. Rough woody forage wears out its teeth, and when teeth are worn out, a ruminant dies because it can't chew its cud. A goat-focused quality feeding program that combines tender forage/browse, horse-quality hay, and (as needed) pelleted goat feed, plus loose minerals with good copper levels, produces healthy goats.

Intensive management lends itself to health problems. Goats cannot be "feed-lotted" like cattle. Goats live, eat, and move across their environment like DEER.

Manage INTAKE (feed nutrition) and monitor OUTPUT (fecal egg counts). You are feeding the RUMEN . . . not the goat. Properly fed goats with low worm loads are healthy goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, ONION CREEK RANCH, Texas 7.9.23

Meat Goat Mania

Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither tennesseemeatgoats.com nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR'S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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