Like your mother used to say: “life isn’t always fair.” Whether at your job or on the news, sometimes it can feel like the world is full of parasites who take your hard work and give nothing in return. These same parasites exist in the goat business. Many goats are susceptible to gastrointestinal parasites or “worms” which leach nutrients from the animal’s bloodstream. This drain of the animal’s resources causes anemia which leaves them malnourished, weak, and unable to raise kids. Fortunately, certain goats have a genetically occurring immunity or “resistance” to internal parasites. Good parasite resistance in goats allows them to stay healthy and strong in order to care for themselves and raise their kids without adding economic strain to the rancher.
A goat that is overrun by parasites, becomes feeble and unable to reach food or evade predators. The internal parasites sap the goat’s nutrients making it difficult for them to keep pace with the rest of the herd. This means that the goat must choose between eating less while trying to stay with the group or leaving the group to become a target for coyotes or roaming dogs. If a parasite-weakened goat is attacked by a predator, they will be unable to escape because of their malnourishment. Thus, a goat with intestinal worms is susceptible to starvation or predation due to the nutritional drain of the parasites.
Furthermore, a goat that hosts too many internal parasites is often unable to raise kids because they do not have the resources to get pregnant or care for their young. If a doe (or buck) becomes undernourished due to internal parasites, their fertility will decline in an attempt to preserve their strength. Since a goat that doesn’t produce kids cannot pay their keep on the ranch, a resistance to internal parasites is an integral characteristic of a profitable goat. But, even if a doe manages to get pregnant and give birth, she will not be able to quickly raise her kids to a desirable size for sale or slaughter. If her kids do not sell for a reasonable price because they are underfed, a wormy goat is inherently less profitable than a parasite resistant goat. So, a goat that is not immune to internal parasites will struggle to provide value while skipping breeding cycles or producing underweight stock.
However, some ranchers counteract their goats’ susceptibility to parasites by investing time and money in pasture rotation and wormers. In order to curtail the number of worms which accumulate when goats stay in one place for too long, the herd can be cycled to a ‘fresh’ pen every two weeks to allow the parasites to die without a host. To be effective, this system requires that the pasture be cross-fenced to create at least 3-4 pens. Not only does pasture rotation incur additional fencing costs, but the owner must also be diligent to move their goats on schedule or risk allowing the parasites to gain the upper hand. If the parasites successfully infect the herd, the rancher must purchase expensive wormers to treat the ailing livestock. Though effective wormers are still available, the chemicals in many products have become ineffective since the worms are developing an immunity. This means that more and more wormer is required in order to treat the parasites. Raising goats that are resistant to parasites eliminates the economic and time costs required by rotational grazing and worming.
So, don’t let parasites get you down by killing your goats, ruining your kid crop, and robbing you of time and money! Goats that are not burdened by internal parasites will outperform their peers in the metrics that really matter. Then, even if you can’t solve all the problems you see on the news, at least you’ll still have great goats!