Goat Pastures Parasites

Parasites and pastures

One of the major components of an effective parasite control program is reducing the number of parasites to which goats are exposed.  One way to accomplish this is to manage  pastures in a way that will reduce parasite load. There are several ways to do this:

  1. Take a hay crop from the pasture area.  This can be incorporated into a dose-and-move program in which goats are grazed on one pasture in the early grazing season and then moved to another goat pasture that was used for a first-cutting of hay. Moving animals to another grazing area before the end of the grazing season will probably provide the best parasite control.
  2. Incorporate annual pastures into the grazing system .  Dragging some implement ithrough the stubble before planting will enhance plant establishment.
  3. Inclued in the grazing system plants containing high concentrations of condensed tannins.  A good example is sericea lespedeza. which is a perenniel legume which can grow well even on less fertile soils. http://www.acsrpc.org/Resources/sericea.html. Alternatively, incorporate fodder shrubs that contain high concentrations of tannins such as black locust.
  4. Graze goats with another species such as cattle or horses.  Sheep are an exception since they share the same worms as goats.   The goat parasite larvae cannot survive in the gastrointestinal tract of another herbivore species.  Another approach is to use a first-grazer, second-grazer system with two livestock species whereby the first-grazers remove the taller growth which is less likely to contain parasite larvae. 
  5. Use controlled or rotation grazing practices to optimize pasture utilization. This is a more productive practice than continuous grazing on the same pasture.  Goats will return to the same areas where their favorite plants are growing. Those areas will become heavily infected by gastrointestinal parasite larvae and eggs.
  6. In extensive situations with an over-abundance of pasture land, allow the goats to have plenty of forage, thus giving them the opportunity to select the most nutritious parts of plants. In such situations, goats will not graze close to the ground and will not ingest many gastrointestinal parasite larvae.
  7. Put goats in a browse area, or woodlot, when hot, humid environmental conditions favor the rapid life cycle of gastrointestinal parasites. By browsing, goats will not consume forage close to the ground where the parasite larvae are located — 5-inches or less from the ground level. In addition, many browse plants have the additional benefit of harboring high tannin concentrations. Tannins have been shown to reduce fecal egg counts and possible gastrointestinal parasite larvae numbers.
  8. Always put goats with the highest nutritional requirements on the best quality pastures. Good nutrition allows a more effective immune response to fight gastrointestinal parasites.
  9. Do not graze a pasture for a period of time.   Unfortunately, it takes a year or an entire grazing season for the worm eggs and larvae to die off if the pasture is just left empty. This is usually impractical for most producers.

More information on pasture and grazing management for parasite control

Luginbuhl, J-M. 2006. Pastures for Meat Goats. In: Meat Goat Production Handbook, ed. T.A. Gipson, R.C. Merkel, K. Williams, and T. Sahlu, Langston University, ISBN 1-880667-04-5.