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Grazing management

Sheep and goats carry the same worms. When grazed together, goats carry heavier worm burdens than do sheep, especially in the absence of browse. It is best to not run sheep and goats together, except in the pastoral zone where worms are not as important and where goats have access to browse, which they prefer. If you do run both goats and sheep in higher rainfall zones, run goats on different areas of the property from sheep. Goats also share common worms with alpacas. Goats can be successfully run with horses and cattle.

NOTE: goats can also be infected by the brown stomach worm (Ostertagia ostertagi) from cattle, unlike the situation with sheep and lambsUse adult cattle that are resistant to worms.

Grazing management techniques that reduce the exposure of goats to worms are based on these four steps:

  • Avoid grazing on paddocks heavily contaminated with worm larvae.
  • Reduce contamination of paddocks with worm eggs.
  • Allow time for most of the eggs and larvae on the pasture to die.
  • Where possible, provide adequate browse.

If these practices are not practical then consider feedlotting and ensure that feeders and waterers are designed to avoid faecal contamination.

Which goats are most susceptible to worms?

  • Weaners in the months after weaning until about 18 months of age, when they develop a higher level of worm immunity. Paddocks used by young goats should be of the highest quality pasture as the first priority, ideally they should also be of low worm-risk. Bucks remain as susceptible as young goats.
  • Late pregnant and lactating does are highly susceptible to worms as their worm immunity is reduced in late pregnancy and through early lactation. This can contribute to the seasonal increase in worm numbers and later infection of kids at foot.
  • Adult or not lactating (dry) goats remain susceptible to worms as their immunity develops more slowly than it does in sheep, and is often incomplete.
  • Rangeland goats moving into higher rainfall areas are highly susceptible to worms as they have little experience of worm infection and hence their immunity is poorly developed. Paddocks used by these goats should be of low worm-risk.

How are low worm-risk kidding and weaner paddocks prepared?

Whether the paddock is for kidding does or for weaned kids the method of preparation is the same. However, the length of preparation will vary according to the time of the year the paddock first needs to be used.

Preparing a low worm-risk paddock

In the months (see Table 1. below) before it is required, prevent contamination of the paddock with goat* worm eggs by either spelling these paddocks, or grazing with cattle or horses or grazing with goats or sheep for up to 3 weeks after the protection period of a drench proven (from a DrenchTest) effective on your property. 

Note: *where goats are referred to, include sheep and alpacas, as they can carry goat worms. While cattle also carry some goat worms, adult cattle tend to have very low burdens and contribute very little to contamination of pastures with worms affecting goats.

To find out more visit the Appendices for this program:

Appendices – NSW central, south and southwest

Table 1. Months of preparation required for low worm-risk paddocks

The first month weaning or lambing startsCooler tablelands areas of this worm control region*Hotter western areas of this worm control region**
July, August, September or October54
November or December43
January, February, March or April32
May or June43

* includes towns such as Bathurst, Orange, Goulburn, Yass

** includes towns such as Tottenham, Condobolin, West Wyalong, Narranderra

What if kidding is at another time?

For early autumn kidding, only 3 months preparation is required as larvae die faster in the preceding hotter months.

Preparing a winter weaner paddock using ‘Smart grazing’

The paddock(s) that will be used by weaners after the autumn break should previously only be grazed by goats or sheep that have received an effective summer drench, or adult cattle (over 12 months old). To minimize contamination with worm eggs, graze only for 30 days after each drench is given. A similar stocking rate to continuous stocking will be achieved by stocking at 2½–3 times your normal stocking rate.

If there is excess feed, the summer drenches can be ‘staggered’ for different mobs so as to provide a longer intensive grazing period, as removing excess feed enhances the kill of worm larvae with summer heat. 

Give the weaners an effective drench before they enter the ‘Smart grazed’ paddock after the autumn break: Smart grazing for weaner worm control.

Other ways to prepare low worm-risk paddocks

Rotational grazing with short graze periods alternated with rest periods can greatly reduce the number of worm larvae on pasture, especially barber’s pole worm. Common watering points contained within small areas (e.g. up to 1 ha) that are grassed (i.e. not bare or gravel surface) should be avoided as these can become high worm-risk areas.  While these systems (e.g. planned grazing, cell grazing, techno-grazing and intensive rotational grazing) are outside the scope of this publication, they use the principles found in Factors contributing to paddock contamination with worms.

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