Gastrointestinal parasites cause significant economic losses and are listed in the top three fatal conditions in sheep and goats. Parasites cause disease when they are present in large numbers or when the host animal is weakened by another disease or by poor nutrition. Damage to the host occurs when parasites attach to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and ingest blood – large numbers of parasites can create anemia from blood loss. Damage can also occur from other parasites when they either attach to the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and cause it to become inflamed, or they live in the lumen (open area) of the gastrointestinal tract and have access to ingested feed nutrients before the host can digest them. This can result in the impaired ability of the host animal to absorb nutrients, causing poor body condition (thinness), poor growth rates, low milk production, and/or poor hair coat or fleece growth. Some parasites cause a reduction in appetite in the host animal.
To understand how parasites are spread from animal to animal, you have to understand the parasites’ life-cycle. When parasites’ are in the gastrointestinal tract of the host, they lay microscopic eggs that are shed in the animal’s feces. Once on the ground in the feces, the eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae are capable of traveling a small distance away from the fecal matter and reside on nearby blades of grass or other plant matter, such as hay that is on the ground. Larvae can be spread by animals walking in their manure and onto nearby grass or feed, which is then ingested by another animal. Once ingested by the sheep or goat, the parasites mature in the gastrointestinal tract into the adult form, and egg-laying resumes. When there is an abundance of parasites in the goat or sheep, they will start to show clinical signs. These clinical signs can range from weight loss, diarrhea, anemia with pale mucous membranes of the eye and mouth, “bottle jaw” (edematous swelling under the jaw), generalized weakness, and eventually death.
Here are some ways to limit parasite problems in a goat herd or a sheep flock. Don’t feed hay on the ground. It helps to feed from racks or feeders and keep these clean. The goal is to limit fecal contamination to feed. Goats have the tendency to want to climb into or on top of feeders, so they may need to be covered or modified to prevent them from stepping in or defecating into the feed. Also, a good idea to clean water troughs and bowels regularly to limit transmission of parasites through fecally contaminated water. Rotational grazing is another way to limit parasite problems. Goats and sheep should be rotated every seven to ten days, particularly during the height of the growing season where warmer temperatures and moisture is maintained.
Exposure to sunlight for three to four weeks will kill many of the remaining parasite larvae, making the pasture safer for sheep and goats to return to graze. Avoid overcrowding as many parasitism problems arise from overstocking, or simply having too many animals in a given section of land. Overcrowding contributes to added stress on the animals as well as added competition among animals held in small confined areas. Lastly avoid malnutrition for sheep and goats are far more capable of coping with gastrointestinal parasites if their nutritional needs are met. Feeding adequate amounts of protein to these animals is particularly important. Also adding garlic and diatomaceous earth to the diet work as a natural source to get rid of parasites. Combining good nutrition and good flock/herd management will greatly diminish the negative effects of gastrointestinal parasites in sheep and goats.
Products of the Week:
Diatomaceous Earth is a naturally-occurring substance. It is the fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one-celled plants called DIATOMS. It is mined from ancient sea beds and ground to a fine, powder-like consistency. It is believed that the microscopic sharp edges of the Diatomaceous Earth particles scrape off the worm eggs that the adult worms have attached to the sheep’s intestinal walls, so they can pass out with the feces. Midwestern BioAg carries an all-natural Diatomaceous Earth product that is OMRI certified. Our product is a very pure form of Diatomaceous Earth used as an anti-caking feed additive.
The Redmond 10 Fine with Garlic is a natural garlic mineral salt. Feeding garlic salt can also be used to control internal parasites. It is very palatable making it very easy for livestock to consume. It is very easy and livestock don’t develop resistance to garlic, as they do with other chemical treatments. This product also includes health benefits as well, as it has many trace minerals and antioxidant properties. The Redmond 10 Fine with garlic is the perfect solution to parasite and fly control, as it is delicious, healthy, easy, and it works.