Confused about worming your goats?

Are you confused about worming your goats? Well, you’re not alone.


After a recent trip to TSC to pick up some supplies I am still confused. I am presently using an herbal wormer and I was looking for an additional support in wormload maintenance for my goats.  I was told I could use DE (diatomaceous earth) as a wormer for my goats. Returning home I had to research this more thoroughly. I came upon this article from Onion Creek Ranch .  I found two articles covering a rather extensive amount of information.  One can not have to much information on the subject to help us make informed decisions regarding the health of our goats. It’s a lot of reading but it’s worth it.

Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, Texas
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Lohn, TX

Lohn, Texas

Onion Creek Ranch “Chevon, cabrito, goat… No matter what you call it, it is the HEALTHY red meat™

Onion Creek Ranch

This article will cover a variety of subjects which keep coming up, making it clear to this writer that goat producers lack essential information on the topics.

Cydectin – A Texas breeder has reported that she has lost five kids and two older does and expects to lose at least three more goats to what she believes is Cydectin poisoning. She used Cydectin in pour-on form according to label directions. The goats which she had necropsied showed nerve damage. Prior to death, the kids were walking with high and loose steps, one was nearly blind, and the others had weak hindquarters and quivered all over their entire bodies. Two bucks who survived completely lost all their body hair, and when it grew back, the skin was scabby and bumpy.

While conclusive proof that Cydectin was the complete cause of this problem is not yet available, this producer fully believes it is. And she is not the only person reporting health problems with goats after using Cydectin.

This points out the importance of not using medications off-label. Cydectin is not approved for use on goats, therefore the manufacturer has no liability whatsoever when a producer uses it off-label.

Many medications that producers have to use on goats are not approved for goats. However, some can be used effectively and appropriately if they are used under veterinary supervision. This is absolutely critical. Do not use medications off-label or extra-label on goats on an experimental basis.

Valbazen – This de-wormer should never be used on pregnant does. It can cause abortions at certain points in the preganancy. Don’t take chances; don’t use it on pregnant does.

Copper, Selenium, and other essential minerals – Goats must have copper in trace amounts in their diets. For example, copper deficency cause abortions. Much of the United States is selenium deficient; find out if your area has this problem and give your goats Bo-Se or other selenium additives, as suggested by your vet or feed company.

Feed companies hire nutritionists and other scientists who study feed requirements of the species for which they manufacture feed. Few of us are smarter than these researchers. Unless you absolutely have no other alternative, don’t become a feed mixer. Chances are, they know more than you do, particularly since nutritional requirements vary from region to region.

Loose minerals work better with goats than mineral blocks. Goats tend to chew rather than lick mineral blocks. This is hard on their teeth. And don’t worry if they eat it sometimes and ignore it at other times. Their bodies know what they need. Leave the loose minerals out, free choice, and even week-old babies will eat them. Goats on browse tend to eat more loose minerals than pen-fed goats. Apparently the sack feed has adequate mineral mixture in it.

Milk Fever – This is a misleading term, because “fever” is not involved and also because cattle people sometimes call mastitis by this name.

In goats, milk fever is hypocalcemia . . . inadequate absorption of calcium immediately prior to kidding. Symptoms include sudden loss of appetite, mild bloat or constipation, unsteady gait, and low body temperature. Intravenous administration of calcium is the treatment of choice in severe cases. Producers can try CMPK oral drench or MFO Milk Fever Oral drench; these products contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium in controlled dosage and are available through co-ops, feed stores, and mail order houses such as Valley Vet or Caprine Supply.

The symptoms are so general that they can be mistaken for ruminal acidosis or even pregnancy toxemia. Do not treat these problems by feeding alfalfa hay to does immediately prior to kidding. It is high in calcium, but it will cause further problems.

Pregnancy Toxemia & Ketosis – These two conditions cause similar problems, but they occur at different times in relation to kidding date.

Pregnancy Toxemia generally occurs within the two-week time frame immediately prior to kidding. Too much protein and not enough roughage causes pregnancy toxemia. When a doe is within two weeks of kidding, her body is full of kids, thereby reducing the size of her rumen. If she is fed a very high-protein diet, she does not have enough room left to accomodate the roughage she needs to stimulate her rumen. Goats must have roughage to induce rumen activity or they cannot digest their food.

Ketosis usually occurs immediately after kidding and results from inadequate protein in the dam’s diet. When her body begins to draw upon its own protein reserves to grow her babies inside her, ketones are produced which begin to kill her.

Some producers practice a method of feeding called flushing for several weeks prior to kidding. They feed the does extra rations of products such as shell corn to “fatten” them up a bit, thinking that this produces multiple births. Research indicates that the number of fetuses is determined much earlier , at time of conception. Flushing is really correctly done before does are bred to bring them into better condition. This procedure is NOT recommended unless your meat goats are being made to survive on browse/pasture/forage, in which instance it is possible that fetuses can die from lack of nutrition or from pulling their dam down so much as her body struggles to feed them in utero that both she and the fetuses don’t survive. Feeding extra rations immediately prior to kidding will likely cause Pregnancy Toxemia (see above).

Goat Medicine is the authorative book on goats. Written by Dr. Mary C. Smith and Dr. David M. Sherman, this 620 page book can be purchased over the Internet from AlpineHaus for about $75.00, or your local bookstore can order it for you. The ISBN number is 0-8121-1478-7. Although written for professionals and hence a bit technical, it is an invaluable addition to your goat library. If you own no other book on goats, this is the one to have.

Directory of Goat Vets Across the United States – Recognizing that many folks live in areas where finding vets who know anything about goats is difficult, the owner of the Cybergoat site on the Internet has begun a listing of knowledgeable goat vets nationwide. Go to for this information. If you have a good goat vet that you think should be added to this list, send that information to the Webmaster, Donna Palmer. The usual disclaimers apply.

Diatomaceous Earth – This product is a “hot” issue nowadays. Producers are using it as a de-wormer, although several studies have been done on using it for de-worming goats and sheep without positive results. Nevertheless, producers who believe in DE believe in DE with an almost religious fervor.

DE appears to be effective in fly control, but its efficacy in controlling internal parasites such as worms is not scientifically proven yet. Supporters believe that DE kills the tiny worms by cutting them up inside the goat. This writer has yet to hear a realistic answer as to why it would not also hurt the goat’s internal organs.

I truly hope that DE (and other products) can be proven under controlled testing to be effective against worms while at the same time not harmful to the goats upon whom it is being used. At this point, however, I would not recommend giving up the chemical de-wormers and fecal counts. Further study is needed on this subject.

De-Worming Programs and Problems – This writer honestly believes that most producers’ problems with worm control derives from the lack of a consistent and regimented de-worming program and the failure to do regular fecal counts on their animals. In between fecal counts, use the layman’s best method of checking for worms; pull the lower eyelid down and look at the color of the inside of the lower lid. It should be bright red to bright pink. Light pink means worms, and white coloring means anemia. This is much more effective that checking gum color. Of course, it is not a substitute for fecal egg counts.

Goats cannot be de-wormed and then put back into the same pen or pasture without a high risk of re-infestation. Pastures must be rotated and pens must be kept clean of feces or re-infestation is certain. A goat sloughs off feces-containing worms for about 48 hours after de-worming medication is administered. The life cycle of a stomach worm is three weeks, and pregnant and nursing does are particularly susceptible to worm infestation.

Waiting for a worm problem to appear and then chasing it dooms the producer to continual problems with worms. Proper Management and Nutrition – This is a pet peeve of this writer. If a producer cannot afford to properly house and feed his goats, then he can’t afford to own them. Many of us are raising goats in small pastures or pens. This is an invitation for disaster. Over-crowding causes all sorts of caprine health problems. “Cleanliness is next to godliness” in these circumstances. It also determines whether your goats survive and thrive, or whether they do poorly and die.

Identifying Goats – Male goats are called bucks (not “billies”); female goats are does (not “nannies”). And castrated boys are wethers.

Internet Goat Discussion Groups – If you are not on the Internet, you need to get on it. This is being said by a person who heartily resisted it until the summer of 1998. The Internet is a wonderful place to learn more about goats. Join a meat-goat discussion group, where other producers and animal health professionals discuss goat-related issues daily.

This writer established an Internet meat-goat discussion group at Thanksgiving 1998. It is called ChevonTalk, is a free but closed list (you have to sign up and disclose who you are), and can be joined by going here and filling out the ChevonTalk form. Or contact me directly to be added to ChevonTalk.

Any of the Articles pages, upon which many of my previous columns are posted and can be downloaded and printed out for your reference. Organizations are encouraged to re-print them so long as they are reprinted in full (so nothing is taken out of context . . . . liability issues, of course) and the writer gets credit for the article being reprinted.

Meat Goat Mania

Important! Please Read This Notice!

All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.

In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Suzanne Gasparotto is not a veterinarian.Neither nor any of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.

The author, Suzanne Gasparotto, hereby grants to local goat publications and club newsletters, permission to reprint articles published on the Onion Creek Ranch website under these conditions: THE ARTICLE MUST BE REPRODUCED IN ITS ENTIRETY AND THE AUTHOR’S NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED AT THE BEGINNING OF THE REPRINT. We would appreciate notification from any clubs or publications when the articles are used. (A copy of the newsletter or publication would also be a welcome addition to our growing library of goat related information!)

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Small Ruminant
Info Sheet

Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Is it an effective natural anthelmintic for sheep and goats?
A review of the scientific literature

Diatomaceous earth (DE), the skeletal remains of single-cell algae, is often touted as an effective and alternative anthelmintic for sheep, goats, and other livestock. DE is said to kill worms by slashing them with its blade-like surfaces. However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to support its use.

North Carolina (2009)
Diatomaceous Earth


In 2009, a study was conducted at North Carolina A&T State University to determine the effect of DE on goats naturally-infected with internal parasites (primarily Haemonchus contortus, Eimeria, and Trichostrongylus spp.).

Twenty Spanish and Spanish x Boer does (avg. 88 lb.) were randomly assigned to four treatment groups. For eight days, they were treated with DE at different concentrations: Group 1, 1.77 g DE; Group 2, 3.54 g DE; and Group 3, 5.31 g DE.

The DE was mixed with 150 ml of sterile water and administered as a drench. Goats in Group 4 were drenched with sterile water and served as untreated controls.

The goats were kept outdoors in sheltered pens with concrete floors. They were fed a concentrate diet.

Body weights, fecal egg counts, packed cell volume, and white (WBC) and red blood cell (RBC) counts were measured weekly for six weeks. Over the duration of the study, increases in fecal egg counts were observed, and packed cell volumes decreased in all groups. All groups exhibited increases in WBC and decreases in RBC counts. An anthelmintic effect of DE was not observed, as there were no significant reductions in fecal egg count as a result of DE administration.

The Effects of Diatomaceous Earth on Parasite Infected Goats. Bulletin of the Georgian Academy of Agricultural Sciences (2009).

United Kingdom (2005)

In 2005, British researchers carried out two experiments to assess the efficacy of DE as an alternative to anthelmintics in grazing ruminants (cattle and sheep). Animals treated with anthelmintics and groups of untreated animals were included for comparison.

In the first study, 18 cattle (yearling Black Welsh heifers) were assigned to three treatment groups: 1) control group – no treatment; 2) treatment with an anthelmintic drench prior to turnout; and 3) a daily supplement of DE (2% of daily DM intake). The DE was mixed in with a ration of rolled barley. Groups 1 and 2 received a similar ration of rolled barley. The duration of the study was 10 weeks.

There were no significant differences between treatment groups for live weight gain. In week 7, cattle in the control (untreated) group had higher fecal egg counts than the drench or DE groups; however, for all other weeks, fecal egg counts did not differ between the three groups.

In the second study, 45 single-bearing pregnant ewes were assigned to three treatment groups (balanced for live weight and fecal egg count): 1) control – no treatment; 2) treatment with an anthelmintic prior to turnout (with lamb); and 3) daily supplement of DE post-lambing.

As with the cattle, the DE was mixed in with a ration of rolled barley that all of the ewes received every morning. Ewes and lambs grazed pastures that had not been grazed for at least three months. The duration of the study was 8 weeks.

There were no significant differences in fecal egg counts between treatment groups prior to or post-lambing. Ewes in the DE group had heavier post-lambing live weights than ewes in the drench group, but not the control group. By 10 weeks of age, lambs from DE ewes were significantly heavier than lambs from ewes in the drench group, but there was no statistical difference between lambs in the DE and control groups.

The Inclusion of Diatomaceous Earth in the Diet of Grazing Ruminants and its Effect on Gastrointestinal Parasite Burdens. International Society of Organic Agricultural Research. 2005 Conference.

Iowa (1994-1995)

Two trials were conducted by Iowa State University in 1994 and 1995 to access the efficacy of DE as a natural anthelmintic. In the first trial, 24 weanling lambs were assigned to four treatment groups: 1) uninfected controls – no treatment; 2) infected controls – no treatment; 3) uninfected treated – DE fed; and 4) infected treated – DE fed.

Lambs grazingIn the uninfected groups (1, 3), lambs grazed clean paddocks, whereas in the infected groups (2, 4), lambs grazed paddocks that had been grazed in the early spring by infected ewes and their lambs. Lambs in all groups were fed 1.1 lbs. (0.5 kg) of concentrate daily. In the treated groups (3, 4), DE comprised 5 percent of the concentrate ration. Samples and measurements were taken at 3 week intervals. A lamb from each replicate of each treatment was selected for a more detail evaluation of the digestive tract.

DE failed to demonstrate economic value, as no death losses were experienced and weight gains were not statistically significant between the groups. There were no differences in hemoglobin or packed cell volume. While fecal egg counts were numerically different between the controls and DE groups (favoring the DE group), no statistical difference was identified, due to the large variability in each group.

The second trial was expanded to 32 lambs and DE was increased to 10 percent of the concentrate ration. The trial was lengthened from 66 to 117 days. In addition, all lambs were dewormed with ivermectin at the start of the trial. One lamb from each replicate of each treatment was selected for a more detail evaluation of the digestive tract. Between the two trials, twenty lambs were necropsied for GI larvae recovery.

The results of the second trial were similar to the first trial. No statistical differences were detected in weight gain, blood values, fecal egg counts, or GI larval counts. At one point, the DE lambs had lower fecal egg counts, but the differences changed markedly by the end of the trial (in September).

Evaluation of diatomaceous earth as an adjunct to sheep parasite control in organic farming. Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. Competitive Grant Report (1995).


The results of these and similar unpublished studies are consistent: 1) DE does not have an effect on parasites loads as measured by fecal egg counts; and 2) DE does not reduce anemia, as measured by packed cell volume and other blood parameters.

Despite the widespread interest in using diatomaceous earth (DE) as a natural anthelmintic, few studies have actually evaluated its efficacy. Thus, there is a need to do additional studies. The Sustainable Agriculture, Research & Education Program offers farmer-grants that can be used to evaluate alternative dewormers and other sustainable worm control strategies.

Drenching a goatIn previous studies, DE has been evaluated as a substitute for a chemical dewormer. DE and other natural substances aren’t likely to replace chemical dewormers, especiallly as the role of chemical dewormers changes from prophylactic to therapeutic.

On the other hand, there is some speculation that DE may inhibit the development of worm larvae (on pasture). If this is true, DE could help to reduce the level of pasture contamination, which in turn, could reduce the number of animals that require treatment with a chemical dewormer.

When properly used, chemical dewormers are not detrimental to the environment, the animal, or the consumer of the end product. In fact, chemical dewormers tend to be less toxic than the “natural anthelmintics” that were used before the development of modern anthelmintics. However, the goal of all small ruminant producers should be to reduce the number of animals that require treatment with an anthelmintic. Anthelmintics are a valuable, but limited resource that must be managed properly to ensure their long term viability.

For producers who wish to use DE as part of an integrated (or holistic) parasite control program, I would encourage them to regularly monitor their animals for signs of clinical parasitism and the need for deworming. The FAMACHA© system and Five Point Check© can be used to selectively treat small ruminants for internal parasites.

There is no single substance (natural or synthetic) or management practice that will completely control internal parasites in small ruminants. Successful control will require critical thinking and a combination of practices. Furthermore, what appears to work one year may not work the next. Each year and farm is different. Animals also differ significantly in their ability to inhibit parasitic infection and/or tolerate parasite burdens, with there being as much difference within a breed as between breeds.
Copyright © 2013

Created or last updated by Susan Schoenian on 04-Jun-2013 .

About the author
UME logoSusan Schoenian is an Extension Sheep & Goat Specialist at the University of Maryland’s Western Maryland Research & Education Center in Keedysville. Susan has been with University of Maryland Extension (UME) since 1988. Previously, she served as Farm Management Specialist for Maryland’s nine Eastern Shore counties and as a county extension agent in Wicomico County. Susan’s first professional job was as Sheep Specialist for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Animal Science from Virginia Tech and Montana State University, respectively. Susan raises purebred and crossbred Katahdin sheep on her small farm called The Baalands in Clear Spring, Maryland.
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Return to Maryland Small Ruminant Page.


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