Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX
Lohn, Texas
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Stocking rates for cattle and some other species of livestock  are  based upon how many head can be run per acre  of land and not over-graze.       This is not  true for goats.

Stocking rates for goats are not calculated on how much plant material is available for them to eat.     Goat stocking rates must be based upon controlling internal parasites and avoiding wet conditions and over-crowding.   Goats are very susceptible  to the   blood-sucking stomach worm Haemonchus contortus (barberpole worm) that causes anemia and death.   Goats are like deer, needing   lots of land to roam over.  By moving continually and eating   "from the top down,"  goats avoid worms that are on plant materials that are closest  to the ground.   Lots of land to roam over allows goats to keep distances among  themselves,  reducing the chance of ingesting worms  in the increasing fecal  load on the pasture.  Goats cannot handle the stress or the worm load  that exists in  wet and overcrowded conditions.   WET = WORMS.  No goat breed is resistant to worms.

Goats are primarily browsers and foragers  of leaves and weeds.  Goats will eat many types of nutritious  plant materials, including grasses.  They  eat different plants   at different times of the year and will even vary their choices  from morning to evening. Goats are very picky eaters.    There are many plant materials that cows and sheep will eat but goats won't  eat because they cannot digest them.     Goats have a very fast rumen passage rate (11 hours), so they  must eat easy-to-digest  plant materials often.   If the Acid Detergent Fiber  (a measure of digestibility of plant materials) is 39 or higher, then too much lignin is present  and goats cannot digest it.

Goats will always find and eat the newest and most tender growth.    If  you force  goats  to graze pastures,   they are not going to eat the tall grasses but instead will go to  ground level to eat  the youngest and   most tender shoots . . .  right where the worms are .  Worm eggs hatch, travel up the new blades of grass, and wait for goats to ingest them.

Meningeal deerworm is another internal parasite devastating to goats being raised  in areas of white-tail deer populations.    The combination of standing water (bogs, marshes, ponds, lakes, and   heavy leaf litter) and white-tail deer too often results in Meningeal Deerworm Infection.  Meningeal deerworm infection can be hard to diagnose, is difficult to  combat,  must be treated aggressively and quickly, and  leaves permanent damage   (including paralysis).      Read my article  entitled Meningeal Deerworm Infection on the Articles page  of www.tennesseemeatgoats.com  for additional information about diagnosis and treatment.

Goats  thrive best  in dry  climates.   They  can be raised in moderately wet climates if   you are  able to provide an environment that minimizes their exposure to internal parasites.    You must  have well-drained pastures, build at least  three  and preferably more rotational paddocks to move  goats through about  every three weeks (the life cycle of a stomach worm),  and be prepared to feed supplementally when weather is bad or pastures cannot support the goats' nutritional needs.  Running a second species like cattle behind goats  through the rotational pastures can  help clean up the stomach worm load.

Rotational grazing with cattle is done to make cattle eat  available plant material in order to avoid supplemental feeding. Rotating goats in pastures is done to control internal parasites and avoid the stresses caused by   overcrowding.  Unless they are reduced to starvation, goats are not going to eat the coarse plant materials that cattle will eat as filler;  it has no nutritional value to goats, they know it, and their bodies have great difficulty digesting it.   You cannot "starve the profit"  out of a goat by shortchanging them nutritionally.

Start small with just a few goats. Goats multiply quickly. Sexual maturity is as early as two months of age in some goat breeds,  gestation is five months, and multiple births are common.   Populations can double in less than one year.   Your pasture/forage/browse will be depleted quickly, supplemental feeding will be necessary, and stress and worm loads  will increase rapidly.

Controlling worm loads is critically important to the health of your herd.  Stomach worms suck the blood from goats, causing anemia and death.   When red blood cells are destroyed,  the body's organs cannot receive the oxygen necessary to function.  No goat can eat enough to overcome a heavy worm load.   Worms develop resistance to dewormers faster than goats can adapt to wormloads.  You cannot deworm your way out of heavy wormloads.   If you insist upon raising goats in  wet and/or   overcrowded conditions and if you deworm as frequently as  monthly, then you are  creating super worms against which all classes of dewormers will soon not work for you. .

Do fecal counts randomly every month  and cull those goats that cannot tolerate a moderate worm load.  If goats are in overcrowded and/or wet conditions, remember that they cannot adapt even to  a moderate wormload, so you have to keep your  head count per acre very low.  Two (2) goats per acre is the MAXIMUM population density, and if you continue to have stomach worm problems, then you  have  too many goats.

Do not expect  to see  new classes of dewormers on the market.    Nearly 100% of the medications and dewormers  that we use for goats are labeled for other species  because the goat population is not and will not be  large  enough to justify the costs of  developing  and getting approval for  goat-specific products.    Off-label usage will have to continue.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas   1.1.21

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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