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Comparing Alternatives for Controlling Internal Parasites in Dairy Goats

Herbal vs. Chemical

By Crissy Orr


Reprinted with permission.
(This article was not written by Molly Nolte/Fias Co Farm)


nternal parasites are a management problem in dairy goat herds around the world. The population of registered dairy goats in the U.S. has increased steadily from 3,269 in 1964 to 32,459 in 1975. At that rate we would have over 300,000 today, just in the U.S. That is a lot of internal parasites! Fortunately, there are alternatives to controlling parasite loads. Many chemicals have been developed. Before chemicals were developed, herbal remedies were used. In fact, goats in the wild will seek out herbs that will kill internal parasites.

Goats have been domesticated at least as long as any other domestic animal. Nearly three hundred recognizable breeds occur. Dairy goats are located all over the world. In Africa, goats thrive in areas where cattle barely exist. Goats of the wild that live on foraging are healthier than goats tethered in stalls their whole lives. Wild goats live were the weather is very harsh. The climate is cold in the winter, hot in the summer and hardly ever rains. Vegetation is scanty and growth of plants occurs only when rain falls. This may be why goats are adapted for living a nomadic life, always moving to new grazing lands. This prevents their environment from building up with infective stages of parasites. In fenced pastures, parasites can build up and continually re-infect the herd. Good herd management will interrupt this cycle.

The internal parasites that affect goats in our area are nematodes, flukes, tapeworms, and Coccidia. Flukes are not always a problem because they can only complete their life cycle in warm, moist environments such as swampy areas. I found that some worms could cause anemia. This can affect growth, strength, productivity and reproduction. Tapeworms absorb digested nutrients from the gut and literally starve the host when numbers are large. Small numbers of worms are healthy. Goats without worms will have no resistance to parasites and when exposed will get very sick or die.

Two ways of keeping worms populations down in a herd are management and facilities. Sound management will minimize exposure to infective larvae and make use of some remedies that will destroy adult worms in the animal's body. If using medication, all food should be withheld from the animals for at least 15 hours before treatment. The treated animal should be confined in a small stall or lot. Phenothiazine, Thiabendazole, Mebendazole, Cambendazole, Levamisole and the Ivermectin group are available drug treatments for worms. Good facilities are clean pen areas, clean, fresh food, sanitary milking areas, sterile instruments and clean water. Rotation of pastures and dry lots are also good. Goats are primarily browsing animals and will graze the wild plants and shrubs rather than grasses. Dry lots are fenced parts of the pasture that the goats are rotated through so that the worms do not have a chance to build up. Nutrition also plays a big role in worm loads. Dairy goats must have fresh hay, clean water, and grain should be stored in a clean dry place. Goats need lots of exercise for their health and appetite. Some internal parasites are Blood sucking Worms, Tape worms and Lung worms. The types of parasites Ivermectin kills are Haemonchus contortus, Ostertagia circumcincta, Trichostrongylus axei, Trichostrongylus, Nematodirus, Bunostomum trigonocephalum, Oesophagostomum columbianum, Cooteria curticei, Strongyloides papillosus (small round worm nematode), Trichuris ovis (whipworm) and Chabertia ovina.

Ivermectin is a popular chemical wormer for goats, cattle and horses and is considered quite safe. Ivermectin is a member of the macrocyclic lactone class of pesticides, which act by binding selectively to GABA and glutamate-gated chloride ion channels, which occur in invertebrate nerve and muscle cells. It works by increasing the permeability of the cell membrane allowing chloride ions to cross the cell membrane and paralyze the cell, killing the parasite. These compounds are considered safe for mammals because mammals do not have glutamate-gated chloride channels in muscle cells. Brain cells do but the chemicals are not thought to cross the blood-brain barrier.

Herbal remedies have been used for centuries. The following chart list plants and preparation methods to prevent internal parasite build-up.

Plants that are Known to Expel or Prevent Internal Parasites
*Taken from Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable
Name of Plant and Dosage
Preparation Method


Aloes balls are made with 6-8 drams of juice


Strong brew made with one handful of leaves to one cup of water


1 handful of the plant tops brewed in two pints of water


1 handful of leaves daily


5 ripe berries gently warmed in 1/2 pint water. Stir in 1 Tbs. Honey and 1/4 Tbs. ginger. Give one cup daily

Castor Oil

4 tablespoons given once


a handful of the herb brewed in one pint of water


a handful daily in bran mash


2 handfuls of the whole herb fed raw twice daily

Male Fern

6" of dried root finely sliced and boiled into a pulp Add 3/4 pint water. Follow with caster oil drench 30 min. later


2 bulbs or whole plants twice daily


handful of leaves or flowers chopped and mixed with bran daily


5 handfuls of flowers once daily


1-2 roots grated into bran twice daily


The foliage, well pounded, made into pills with flowers and grease


2 handfuls given twice daily in bran


seeds crushed in honey, 1-Tbs. daily


1 tsp. of root cut up small to 3/4-cup water

Mountain Flax

2-4 handfuls to 1 1/2 pints water plus honey


several handfuls of fruit twice daily


1 desert spoon of the seeds


seeds mixed into food


Juice raw

Holly hock

handful of leaves fed raw

Mustard seeds

2 handfuls of the whole herb or the seeds fed raw twice daily


1/2 handful chopped small given in bran


minced flowers made into balls with thick honey


8 pods soaked in cold water for 7 hours, add a pinch of ginger


1 handful of the herb brewed into two pints of water


1 handful herb brewed into two pints of water plus 2 Tbs. honey


1 handful brewed, finely cut and mixed in food morning and night


4 roots finely sliced in 1-quart water, 1-pint morning and night


2 handfuls leaves brewed in 2 pints water add honey


1 handful herb brewed in 1 1/2 pints water + 1 Tbs. honey, give one capful twice daily

Nematode life cycles can be long or short. A typical nematode life cycle involves stages in and out of the host. Trichosrongylus, for example, enters its host as a larva when the goat feeds on infested grass or while grooming after lying on infested ground. The larva burrows into the mucosa of the stomach and develops into egg laying adults in 18-21 days.

Strongyloides papillosus, a small slender roundworm, can enter through the skin and teat openings. Larva climb up through the skin between the hooves. This is a parasite of the small intestine.

Lungworms such as Dictyocaulus, Protostrongylus and Muellerius are eaten as larva, which burrow through the mucosa and migrate through the bloodstream to the lungs where they develop into adults in the bronchi. Adults lay eggs that are coughed up, swallowed and passed with feces.

Tapeworms such as Monezia pass egg packets called proglottids which may appear round, square or triangular. Tapeworms attach themselves with hooks to the internal wall and absorb nutrients from the animal.

An effective wormer will interrupt a life cycle by blocking any one of these stages.



Based on my research, my hypothesis is that herbal will work better then chemical wormers because herbal is more natural. Goats in the wild eat de-worming plants to shed worms from their systems. Chemicals can be hard on goats. If herbal works in the wild with hardy mountain goats, I figure it will work for dairy goats.



My plan is to test Hoegger herbal treatment against Ivermectin chemical treatment. I will do this by using both as directed and since Ivermectin is used every 3 months I will run my experiment for 3 months.

I can not have a control group because if goats go without worming for too long it can cause anemia, poor growth, lower reproductive success, drop in milk production, and increased susceptibility to disease. This study, as I have planned it, will run through milk production season and into breeding season. Also, all the test goats will be kept together so if I had some untreated control goats, they would contaminate the pens with their droppings that would be high in parasite eggs. Even though this greatly affects the data of my project, I will not take the risk of sick or compromised dairy goats.

The herd I will be using has 17 milkers, 2 wethers, 2 dry does, 2 dry yearlings, and 6 bucks. A total of 29 goats were divided into 2 groups.

First I did fecal tests on all the goats. Then I began the treatments. The Chemical Group was treated on August 22, 1998. The Herbal Group began treatment on August 24 with two doses per day for three consecutive days and then weekly after that for 12 weeks until the final worming and sampling on November 21, 1998.

I did not know how long after treatment with Ivermectin it would take for the worms to come out. I designed another experiment to find out when the peak discharge of worms was so that I could get the best sample from each goat at the final worming. I wormed two of my goats, Suzzy and Sunny. I overlapped the two wormings by 12 hours so that I could sample two goats for 15 hours and get all the data.

Equipment List

fecal float kits
Berry catcher
Flotation solution (Fecasol)
29 goats
Ivermectin pour-on x 43 doses
Hoeggers x 2 bags-15x18 doses (1teaspoon)


Fecalizer Procedure


1) Place goat berry specimen in Fecalizer.

2) Insert center part and add Fecalsov to first mark. Turn center part back and forth. I do this to loosen the eggs and worms so they can float up.

3) Press center part down hard with the flat side of a butter knife. Fill Fecalizer to the top until the meniscus bumps up a bit. Then put a 22 mm coverslip on top.

4) Let sit for 15 - 20 minutes. This is so the worms and eggs can float up to the coverslip. They float up because they are less dense than the fluid.

5) Take the coverslip carefully from the Fecalizer and place it on a slide.

6) Look at it under the microscope at 100 x magnification. I searched for eggs and worms by starting on the left and then I would go straight down, move to the right a little ways, then go up and so forth. As I looked for eggs and worms, I graded the amount of each that I found. If found only one in the sample I gave it a "1". If I could see 2-3 eggs at a time I marked down a "2". If I could see 4-5 eggs at a time I marked a "3". If I saw 6-10 or more I put down "4". I did the same with the worms.

7) To clean out the Fecalizer I dug out the fecal material with a toothpick.

These were then soaked in 5% bleach water.

After a while, I rinsed them, let them dry and them put them away.


I found out that the peak of discharge of worms from a treatment with Ivermectin pour-on was at 20-21 hours. With this information, I decided to worm the herd at 11:30 AM on November 21st.

I came back the next day and collected fecal samples from all the test goats. I did this with the help of my friends, Amie Allred, Aaron Quigly, Karen Allred and my Mom. I had to catch all the samples within one hour. We put a berry from each goat in a fecalizer and labeled it. I took the samples home and looked at each one under the microscope. I graded the amount of each that I found. Remember from the procedures that a grade of "2" has way more than a "1".

Overall, the herbal group always had lower parasite numbers. This proves my hypothesis that herbal will work better then chemical wormers. Some of the numbers were not significantly different.

Herbal Wormer
Group Infected
Chemical wormer
Group Infected
Strongyloides (threadworms)
Muellerius (tapeworms)
Dictyocaulus (lungworm)
Monezia (tapeworm)
Protostrongyloides (lungworms)
Coccidia (a protozoa)

Strongyloides (threadworms) were found in 0% of the herbal group and in 29% of the chemical group. The herbal treatment worked well. In this graph we see that there are many more Strongyloides in the chemical test group compared to the herbal test group. There seems to be a significant difference in the load numbers between these two.

Muellerius (tapeworms) were found in 33% of the herbal group and in 36% of the chemical group. I do not feel the herbal treatment worked significantly better. The load numbers in this graph are almost identical. This may show that the herbal treatment does not have an effect on this type of worm.

Dictyocaulus (lungworm) were found in 33% of the herbal group and in 42% of the chemical group. The chemical group not only had more positives but two of the positives had greater numbers of worms. There seems to be a significant difference between the two. I think that the herbal offers some control and since low numbers are tolerable, this may be good enough.

Monezia (tapeworm) were found in 0% of the herbal group and in 21% of the chemical group. This is a significant difference and the herbal offers good control.

Protostrongyloides (lungworms) were found in 33% of the herbal group and in 50% of the Chemical group. The chemical group not only had more positives but four of the positives had greater numbers of worms. There seems to be a significant difference between the two. I think that the herbal offers some control but I am not sure if it is good enough.

Coccidia (a protozoa) were found in 67% of the herbal group and in 95% of the chemical group. Coccidia are normal in low numbers in healthy goats. The chemical group had 6 goats that had high numbers and the herbal group had 4 that had high numbers. This may show that the chemical group was less healthy because of the worm load it was carrying. Many species are not pathagenic. Ten to 12 species occur in goats in the U.S.

The herbal treatment appears to have great control over Strongyloides and Monezia. It offered some control for Dictyocaulus and Protostrongyloides. It did not control Coccidia or Muellerius.



I have concluded that herbal worming works better. Herbal always had lower numbers of parasites than the chemical group. This shows that herbal offers better control and can keep worm loads down to safe numbers. Although all of the parasites were in lower quantities in the herbal group, the coccidia had plentiful numbers throughout both test groups.

Chemical control, even though it had higher parasite numbers than herbal, had some advantages. Chemical wormer is only needed every three months and can be poured on the back (as compared to dosing in grain weekly). The disadvantages are that it may cause damage to the brain tissue and does not maintain control of worms.

Herbal worming also has advantages. It offers better control of worms and does not have any hard chemicals. Some disadvantages are that it needs to be given once a week in some grain or other carrier. This is better for a milking herd because they get grain twice a day during milking.

I have decided to use herbal wormer for my herd of dairy goats. I have a small herd so this will not be a problem. I give my goats grain regularly so I can give them the herbal with it.

For a large herd of milkers kept in one pasture, I would recommend herbal worming. The milkers can get it in their grain. The pasture would be lacking in naturally occurring herbs and the goats would be continually re-infecting themselves.

For a large herd without milkers that can be rotated through pastures, I would recommend chemical wormers. There may not be enough herbs out in the pastures so I would worm them just before they are shifted to a new pasture every three months. This would leave the worms behind so numbers would stay low.

For a small herd with no milkers on rotating pastures I would not worm at all because they can forage for de-worming herbs. If there was no herbs I would use chemical just before they are shifted to a new pasture every three months.

For a small herd with milkers I would use herbal wormer in their grain.

On a working dairy, the goats should get herbal for top performance. Dairy goats should have very low numbers of parasites so they can give full milk. These goats can get the herbal with their grain.

Pet goats do not necessarily get grain so chemical wormer would probably be best for them. Keep a calendar to stay on schedule.

Goats that are out on the range should probably be given no wormer at all. In the wild, they get all their nutrients from plants and herbs. Some herbs have de-worming activity and goats will especially look for these. You may wish to worm once a year before breeding season.

We still need to know how herbal and chemical wormers control in the long term. Are there problems with resistance to chemicals? I would like to make my study go for a year if possible. This would test the wormers to see which offers better control in the long term. I would do this by looking at samples every 3 months and make graphs of worms loads. I may need to rate the herbal by the eggs that are shed because the herbs are killing the worms before they become adults.


I would like to thank the following people for helping me on my science project. Amie Allred and Aaron Quigly for helping me collect the samples, Karen Allred for letting me use her herd of goats and for helping with the herbal treatments, Dr. Mike for helping me get the vet supplies, Mom for buying the Fecalizers and the solution and driving me every Saturday to do the treatments, and Hoegger Supply for supplying the herbal worming powder. Last, but not least, I would like to give major thanks to all the goats who put up with people catching their berries, feeding them weird foods and pouring stuff down their backs. They did a great job. Extra special thanks to Suzzy for pooping on command every hour for 15 hours.


De Baïracli Levy, Juliette The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, 1984, Faber and Faber, London · Boston

Guss, Samuel Management and Diseases of Dairy Goats 1977, Dairy Goat Journal Publishing Corporation

Hendrix, Charles Diagnostic Veterinary Parasitology 2nd Ed. 1998 Mosby, Inc.

McClelland, G. Medical Entomology - An Ecological Perspective 11th Ed. 1990 University of California, Davis, CA 95616

Merck Veterinary Manual, 7th Edition 1991, Merck & Co., Inc. Rathway, N.J., U.S.A.

Sloss, M., R Kemp & A Zajac Veterinary Clinical Parasitology 6th Ed.1994, Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa


Reprinted with permission.


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