Parasite Control Silver Bullet

Click to head over to the ATTRA/NCAT website to download this publication.

We first shared this in March of 2017. It’s good information about managing parasites no matter what kind of livestock you’re raising.

If you’d like to know how to reduce deworming and still have healthy goats or sheep, you’ll want to check out the the ATTRA/NCAT publication “Managing Internal Parasites: Success Stories.” It includes stories from two sheep producers and one goat producer on the management steps they took to almost permanently eliminate deworming from their operations. This excerpt from Paul Casey of Heifer Project International gives you a good idea of the solution he found to work best:

Here’s the silver bullet of parasite control in small ruminants…or at least what I think is the closest thing. It is not administered orally, intramuscularly or subcutaneously. It is not reconstituted or refrigerated. In fact, the sheep don’t even need to [be] put in the corral. Interested? Then read on. But beware; it may be nothing more than the ramblings of a sheep grazier.

“I manage a 60-ewe sheep flock at Heifer Project International’s Ranch in Perryville, Arkansas. About 10 years ago, we started looking at alternative methods of controlling gastrointestinal parasites in sheep. We tried garlic juice, papaya seeds, pumpkin seeds, an herbal dewormer, grazing chicory, grazing sun hemp, and intensive rotational grazing. In the end, rotational grazing was the only practice we kept. Using 120V and/or battery powered chargers, poly posts, poly wire, and temporary waterers, sheep were moved to fresh forage every two to four days, each April through November.

“We implemented stringent culling and rotational grazing at the same time and within a few years parasite problems in the ewes were nearly non-existent. Some years, we did not have to deworm a single ewe. With the exception of the chicory and sun hemp trials, nearly all grazing was on permanent pasture. Cool season forages were predominantly fescue, ryegrass, clover, and vetch. Summer forages were dallisgrass, bahiagrass, foxtail millet, and crabgrass.

“While we had minimal problems with the ewes, obtaining consistently good lamb weight gains, especially after weaning (at 4 to 6 months old) was very difficult. Had we not pushed the lambs so hard by only deworming at FAMACHA© 4 and 5, they might have performed better. We had only one effective dewormer left, and my goal was to use it as little as possible. Grazing more summer annuals and speeding up the rotation may have helped improve the weight gains.

“While I know that our strict ewe culling and ewe lamb selection helped reduce our worm problems, I believe the grazing is what made it successful. By controlling what the sheep eat, when they eat it, and how long they are on a given section of pasture, the manager controls forage intake, forage quality, plant regrowth, and relative ingestion of parasite larvae. Grazing management is the most powerful tool we have for maintaining animal health and performance. While many people use FAMACHA scores as an indicator of parasite load, I use it as an indicator of my management (pasture and breeding).

“Keeping sheep behind an electric fence is not likely as hard as you have heard it is. A good strong charger, poly posts, poly wire, and persistence, on your part, is all that is needed. I have rarely used more than three strands of poly wire and frequently used two strands. If sheep have enough quality forage to eat and the fence is kept consistently hot, rotationally grazing sheep is easy.

“Was this what you expected for a silver bullet? I hope so. We need to look at anthelmintics, not as a tool in our tool box, but as a band aid to fix a management problem.”

Dave Scott shares a similar story based on his experience raising a flock on irrigated pasture in Montana. By managing his grazing and only worming ewes and lambs with FAMACHA scores of  4 and 5, he went from deworming three to four times a summer to not deworming any of his flock within just three years.

Photo courtesy of An Pieschel

The last story in the publication is from Dr. An Pieschel, Small Ruminant Specialist and owner of Goats Unlimited in Tennessee. She started working with goats in Hawaii, where the climate means there’s no dead time for parasites. In spite of that extreme challenge, she reduced the need for worming over time using culling, good nutrition, and good grazing management. She went from a herd she described as unhealthy in 1985 to a herd that she stopped worming in 1994. It’s now been more than twenty years since she’s dewormed a goat. You’ll want to download the free publication for the details on how she’s managed this.

Click to download!

ATTRA/NCAT has taken the next step in getting you started on these kinds of management practices with “Tips for Preventing Internal Parasites, which is also available for free download. Stay tuned for more. In coming weeks we’ll cover treatment and culling for parasites in more detail.

Did You Know ATTRA/NCAT Has Specialists Standing By to Answer Questions and Provide Assistance?

In the U.S., call their toll-free number.

800-346-9140 (English) 8 am to 5 pm Central Time.
800-411-3222 (Spanish) 8 am to 5 pm Pacific Time.

If no one is available, leave a message and you’ll get a call back.

There’s also an online form you can fill out here. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will receive a tailored response from their sustainable agriculture experts as soon as possible, by phone or sent via U.S. mail (if printed publications are included) or e-mail. Their experts have many responsibilities so response time will vary depending on their backlog of questions and the nature and complexity of your question.

So reach out and get your answers!

Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible.

The 7th National Grazing Lands Conference is coming up in December and it’s one of On Pasture’s favorites. One of the things that makes it so great is that folks just like you are the speakers, sharing their great experiences. Learn more about how to be a speaker here. And learn more about the event here.

2 thoughts on “Parasite Control Silver Bullet

  1. A Question Please. someone I know that has Boer, said that she uses
    “Decox” something like that. Is this good for parasites.

    I lost 3 goats to the parasites, and being misdiagnoised by a vet who knows nothing of goats, has a book he looks in. Off of Amazon lol
    Tried Biomection, which I will never use again. Valbazen, Safeguard….Will be moving them to another grazing area. I think that was the big problem. clay ground, doesnt absorb water, and they graze….big mistake. Is there anything you think that will be the answer?

    1. Dear Ms. Guitard,
      It is so disappointing to lose an animal, and I am sorry to hear of your deaths. Did the veterinarian conduct a fecal egg count? Fecal samples can help in diagnosing. This is important because coccidia (which is what Deccox will combat) are treated with different medications than gastrointestinal parasites, such as barberpole worm. Often an animal will be infected with both coccidia and gastrointestinal parasites. As we discuss in our publications, there is no one answer. And, depending on where you live and how your animals have been treated in the past, medications may not be effective against the parasites. We humans also make dosing errors; for example, the correct dose is calculated based on animal weight. If we estimate, we can be pretty far off. Yet, many producers don’t have scales. Besides needing to know weights, we need to take metabolism into account. Goats metabolize differently from sheep, and therefore need a bigger dose of the drug. Please will you check out our materials on ATTRA, and feel free to call me and discuss your questions; 800-346-9140. Also, for anything related to internal parasites and small ruminants, check out There is a wealth of information there, posted by researchers in the field, veterinarians, and extension specialists. For example, there are dewormer charts for sheep and for goats, to help producers figure out the proper dose of drug. There are videos and articles on multiple topics.

      Realize that you cannot deworm your animals enough to save them from internal parasites. You’ll have to rotate pastures, select your strongest animals, provide proper nutrition, keep troughs clean, keep them away from wet areas…that’s just the start! But it can be done. What age were your goats that died? And, have you talked to your veterinarian about the outcome? When you have a vet who “knows nothing of goats” but is willing to listen and learn, then you have someone who can become a valuable partner in your enterprise. Don’t give up on that vet. But do read as much as you can to help design a holistic, integrated plan to keep your animals healthy. I hope that helps; call or write again if you need more information. Good luck!

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