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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, typically longer in winter than in summer.  

To prepare low worm-risk winter and spring paddocks

The main need for low-worm pastures in WA is in the South-West Medium to High Rainfall zone during winter and spring for weaners and kidding does, as in summer the hot, dry conditions prevent larval survival, and pasture growth is generally not sufficient to support significant larval development until May or later.

In the 3–4 months before you want to use a low worm-risk paddock, prevent contamination with goat worm eggs by:

  • Spelling these paddocks from goats*. Spelling for 3–4 months in autumn or winter results in about 90% or more worm larvae dying. Less than two months is not enough for larvae to die to prepare a low worm-risk pasture while pastures are green. On dry pasture in summer, spelling for one month is sufficient.
  • Grazing with adult cattle to prevent pastures from becoming rank or horses, growing browse, crops, hay or establishing new pastures.
  • Grazing with goats or sheep up to 3 weeks after the protection period of a drench known (from a DrenchTest) to be effective on your property. Note: not recommended in coastal areas where barber’s pole worm is a concern.

*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 program Appendices:

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