It’s almost spring! You know what that means … worm season! Wet and warm weather brings all kinds of parasites into the systems of our goats. It’s our job to do our best to keep our goats happy, healthy, and parasite free!
Let’s start with the basics! A frequently asked question on deworming:
Why choose natural deworming?
Well, you don’t HAVE to choose natural deworming, it’s a personal choice. I am a big fan of using natural methods as a preventative, and of course, to treat as well. But I am not against someone’s use of chemical dewormers, especially if the issue presents with one or both of these conditions:
- There is a confirmed fecal on the exact parasite in question.
- The situation is dire.
If neither of these are true, I would choose not to use a chemical dewormer.
But if you do choose to use a chemical dewormer, here are a few of my thoughts on the topic!
I will never say that a chemical dewormer is risk-free. I am not going to tell you not to use a chemical dewormer, but I will say to be careful which goats you use it on. Goats with weakened immune systems, young goats, pregnant goats, etc., all need special consideration if you are trying to figure out which goats to chemically deworm. With that being said, chemical dewormers, when given preventatively, may create resistant worms. Also, many areas have certain worm species that are completely immune to specific chemical dewormers. When using chemicals, it is extremely important to KNOW WHAT WORM YOU ARE DEALING WITH. I don’t believe there is a “one size fit’s all” chemical dewormer. This is why it is imperative to identify the parasite you are dealing with. Chemical dewormers might lower the immune system of a goat, and if your goat does not have an active parasite issue, you may just be causing worm resistance and lowering the health of your goats by treating them preventively. For these reasons, I strongly encourage getting routine fecal tests done on your goats.
Now onto the subject of natural methods. I have used natural methods when my goats do not have a worm situation (for support), but I have also used them when I have gotten a fecal test that shows a worm load–and after use, another “clean” fecal confirmed the success of these methods.
You may be wondering what I mean when I say “natural methods.” I refrain from using the term “herbal methods,” as herb mixes are not what I use exclusively.
I have formed a complex regimen, it is multi-pronged, attacking parasites from all angles.
Step 1. Herbal Mixes
(ALL HERB MIXES MENTIONED ARE NOT PRESCRIBED, PROFESSIONALLY RECOMMENDED, OR SUGGESTED TO BE A “TREATMENT” OR CURE FOR ANY ISSUES AND AILMENTS)
Yes, I do use pre-made herbal blends. There are many brands of herbs that are out there to purchase, and they all have a different range in effectiveness level. I use Fir Meadow LLC’s GI Soother & DWA. GI Soother (while I also use this for digestive support) is something that I like to use for my goats for gastrointestinal parasites such as Haemonchus Contortus (Barber Pole worm) and Coccidia. I use these two separate formulas, GI Soother & DWA, simultaneously. I also enjoy that they are each individualized mixes, so I can provide further support with one of them on its own if I believe there is a particular worm in question. We live in an area with a large population of Barber Pole worm, and so I tend to use GI Soother more often than DWA.
Step 2. Fresh Supplements
One thing that always bothers me about herbal mixes, is that the herbs are dried and powdered which means they may have lost potency or even oxidized. They still work, of course, but I really enjoy using fresh herbs and fresh foods to deworm my goats. I adore fresh thyme for routine deworming. A few sprigs daily also make a delicious treat for your goats! Pumpkin seeds also make a wonderful addition to a deworming regimen. Oregano is another good herb to add. Oak leaves and other goat-safe, high-tannin forages also make good additions! There are many other plants and herbs that act as natural dewormers, and some you can grow in your backyard! This spring we are going to be planting lots of goat-friendly and health supporting herbs and plants in our gardens! Yes, I know it is most goat owners’ goal to keep the goats OUT of the garden, but I’m taking a whole new approach … a goat garden! Stay tuned for more posts on what we will be growing, and how we will use it to boost our goats’ health! In the meantime, have a look at some ingredient lists for herbal goat dewormers, and see if you can grow any of the plants fresh in your own garden!
Step 3. Essential Oils
I use high quality, food-grade essential oils (EOs) as a very large part of my deworming regimen. In tough worm seasons, essential oils have been a wonderful boost to my herbal mixes. Before getting started with EOs, remember that using high quality oils is really important! I recommend DoTerra brand for internal use in goats. In addition, some oils cannot be used for pregnant animals, such as clove oil. Essential oils are also very strong, so be sure to dilute them. When administering oils, I recommend mixing them with 2-3cc of olive oil in a small syringe to be carefully drenched.
For routine deworming, I use a blend of Wild Orange, DigestZen (a DoTerra proprietary blend), Oregano, Lemongrass and Clove (NOT for pregnant animals!!). I will occasionally add Lemon essential oil, especially when dealing with barberpole worms, as it really helps with anemia.
If you struggle with coccidia, the addition of Cinnamon (not for pregnant goats) may help you. OnGuard from DoTerra, or Thieves from Young Living, are also good options. Remember to avoid formulas with clove and cinnamon in pregnant goats.
There are other oils that may aid in treatments for specific parasites, if you struggle with a particular one, please send me a message or leave a comment below.
The dosing that I use is 1 drop of each oil, once a week for maintenance/prevention. If doing a “treatment protocol,” I will do the oils once a day for 3 days straight, then wait 4 days, and then repeat again for 3 days. The “3 days on, 4 days off” method is also something I use consistently in a particularly bad worm season.
Sometimes all the other “prongs” of my deworming technique work well enough without essential oils. I only recommend adding essential oils if you are really struggling with parasites. You can, if needed, start goats on EOs at 4 weeks of age, but I prefer to wait until weaning.
Step 4. Garlic, Garlic, and MORE GARLIC!
Garlic is absolutely my favorite overall supplement! Good ‘ol fresh garlic cloves are wonderful for goats! Not only does garlic help with internal parasites, but since we started our goats on a daily garlic regimen, their immune systems have been really strong, and our previous fly and tick problems are no more! Hooray for garlic! You can read about how we feed garlic, and much more, in our post, Using Garlic to Improve Herd Health!
You can also “super-charge” your garlic feeding by using Garlic Barrier, a concentrated form of garlic.
Step 5. Proper Management
This may sound obvious, but one of the most important things to keep parasites at bay in your herd is to keep your goats’ living areas in tip-top shape! Make sure water, feed, and hay, are elevated off the ground, and kept sanitary. Elevating feed is extremely important. Unfortunately, unlike humans, goats like to eat where they poop! This continues the cruel cycle of worm larvae! Goats with worms will poop in pastures or around feed, then another grazing goat eats grass or feed tainted with the fecal matter, and then they ingest the worms/larvae/eggs all over again. Here is a VERY simple visual of this cycle:
Pasture rotation is often helpful to prevent parasites. As well as keeping grass cut at levels of 4”- 6” and not allowing it to go below 4 inches. This can help to prevent the larvae from being able to climb to the top of the grass where the goats graze. If possible, avoid letting goats out to very wet pastures; moisture will allow the larvae to more easily climb the stalks of grass higher, where a goat is more likely to eat
Step 6. Adequate Mineral Intakes
Mineral deficiencies, specifically in copper, can be a main factor in parasite-susceptible goats. Make sure your goats are covered in the mineral criteria, and that may be one of the best ways to prevent parasites in your herd!
My goats get their herbal formulas mixed in with their daily garlic and applesauce (click to read more about how we give garlic, and how we have “plate trained” our goats). Depending on the day, the weather, the season, and their mood, I determine what I am going to give. The instructions for dosing amounts per weight of FirMeadow LLC’s supplements are on the labels—read carefully. I tailor the frequency of when I give these herbs based on the variables listed above. Make sure the herbal regimen you choose is well-suited to your individual goats, climate, and more. Usually, in a bad worm season, I need to give DWA & GI Soother 3x a week.
As mentioned above, I feed garlic to my goats every day. This is my foundation for all deworming.
Feeding fresh deworming foods is one of the easiest routines, as most of the time the goats enjoy new plants and treats! Cut fresh herbs and plants, and feed them directly to your goats, or grow them where the goats can “harvest” these foods on their own, as long as you have confirmed safe species and quantities of each plant.
I use my essential oil regimen once weekly at a minimum.
Supplying minerals is extremely important, yet is also very individualized. Mineral needs vary from where you live, to what breed of goat you own! It is all about balance. Conduct a mineral analysis (by observation and calculations), and use this to try and determine where your minerals could be (possibly) lacking. Take into account all feed, supplements, and water sources. If you are unsure how to conduct a basic mineral analysis, feel free to send an email or message on social media, and I would be happy to chat with you and explain to the best of my knowledge how it works! As a baseline, a good loose mineral blend should be offered. Some goats may need further supplementation. Copper boluses and other formulated mineral supplements may be necessary in your goats’ diet.
In natural deworming, it’s all about your routine. Be consistent, and regularly keep up with the responsibility of keeping your goats parasite free!
DISCLAIMER: I am not a vet, nor am I a licensed professional. I am in no way a “goat expert” and my opinions are only that of personal experiences, and my insights shared are not medical treatment suggestions, care suggestions, or any directions for raising goats at all. I am simply sharing my own personal opinions. Any and all changes to your goats’ health regimen, care, etc. should be approved by a veterinary professional or licensed professional. I also believe that every goat owner has their own way of doing things, so just as my opinions are my own, and cannot apply to anyone else, your opinions are also regarding your individual goats, and I welcome you to share them in a kind, constructive manner. Disclosure: This post may contain Amazon Affiliate Links, from which I will earn a commission.