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To Worm Or Not To Worm?

By Rhonda Rider

I just found out some exciting information that I want to share with you. A friend asked me if I wanted to learn how to test fecal samples for worm infestation about a week ago. Why not, I thought, anything that can help in keeping my milk production up and save me money and time are high on my list. So we went over to Mike Korhonen’s to learn how to do this. What really was great about this was how easy it was. I can’t tell you how surprised I was. The experience I’d had with worm diagnosis was to wait until I saw signs of illness in my goats and then give them some horse wormer, and if I didn’t see improvement I would take a sample of goat "pebbles" to the local veterinarian in a plastic ziplock bag. Thus, I left them the sample and they would call me and give me the analysis. What I thought the vet was doing was-well, I never really gave it any thought. But I figured it was something hard and needed great expertise to do, because no one had ever mentioned that a non-veterinarian person could do the same thing, and I also got a pretty good bill from this procedure.

This brings me to the class that Mike Korhonen taught Rebekkah, Ken and Kwinn Wyatt and I a week ago. The first thing I noticed was the microscope set up on the desk, a container holding little plastic cups and white plastic strainer-type cups (fecal containers), and a bottle of Fecosol (the solution needed to raise the eggs to the top of the fecal container). There was also a box with slides and another with slide covers in it. Mike explained we needed to take one of the fecal containers and one of the inserts (the white strainer-type looking cups), which I did enthusiastically. Then we took one of the pebbles we brought and using the white strainer container we squished one of the pebbles into the end of it. Then putting that part with the pebble into the blue container and then twisting the two containers together in order to break up the pebble. Then we squeezed some Fecosol into the containers and twisted the two together a little more. Now we pushed the center container into the blue container and it snapped together. We filled the container all the way to the top and then added a few more drops so that the liquid actually was above the container. We put the cover slip onto of the container and then checked our watches, with 20 minutes to wait. Mike explained why this procedure was done; so the eggs would float to the top and stick to the cover slip, then view them under the microscope.

Mike explained the differences between the eggs we were going to be looking for. He said, "Basically there are two kinds of eggs, coccidia and then stomach worms." He explained that the coccidian eggs have a little "button" on the end of them, and this would help identify the two types of eggs we would be looking for. Mike also told us that this was not an exact science, but it was an indicator. His example was a person with high blood pressure and how you check your blood pressure at home-this doesn’t take the place of the doctor, but it does help us know when we need the doctor. Doing your own worm diagnosis is only an indicator and also a way to eliminate a reason your goat’s health could be compromised. Mike also explained that he only worms when there are four or more eggs in the microscope view. This would mean heavily infected, if you see three or more it would be considered moderately infected and two or more is considered mildly infected and one in view would mean lightly infected. And if you don’t see any eggs don’t assume the animal isn’t infected. You may want to do another fecal check in a day or two as the goat may have ingested but not yet shed the organisms.

You may be wondering why we would even want to be bothered with this worming thing. Well, Mike explained it was not just for the obvious reasons, but also for the long-term effect on the baby goats. Coccidia can have long-term effects on the baby goat as it matures into an adult, and as I am in the dairy business, damage to my kids can cause a dollar effect on my business in the future. Mike also explained that worms develop immunity to specific wormers and that is why we should only worm when needed. Mike has been using this worming system for the last five years and believes he worms less and has more effect on the worm cycle. As for me, I see that if I can have more effect on the worms cycle and my goats stay healthier, they will produce more milk for me and I will also save a lot of money on unnecessary wormer in the long run.

You may want to recheck your goats in about 20 days, as the worm would again have laid eggs. Mike uses a wormer from his veterinarian for the stomach worms called Panacur Liquid, which I’ve never tried, but am going to start using as my wormer. And then he uses an over the counter wormer, Corid or Albon for the coccidia.

By now it’s time to check our samples. We are all anticipating what we might see. Will our goats have worms or not? Rebekkah was first and after searching her slide for an egg, all she found were a few air bubbles. Her goats were clean. Then Ken and Kwinn got a chance to look and to check if what Rebekkah didn’t see, was the same. And sure enough-her goats were clean. Mike also had done two different samples from his goats. He found the stomach worm eggs and showed us what we were looking for. His microscope was so easy to use and it was very easy to tell what these worm eggs looked like. He explained we should look at each corner and then the middle of the slide to try and find some eggs. How exciting, I thought, and yet I was nervous about looking at my goat’s fecal sample, as my worming was done by the season. I took my turn at the microscope, and all I could find was air bubbles. Mike looked and agreed. So I had to do another sample, and wait the 20 minutes again. The second time I placed the cover slip down on the slide a little better and we found two eggs on this slide. So I don’t need to worm yet, but soon.

If I can stress how easy this procedure was, everyone will start checking their goat’s "pebbles." This would be a good thing for you and your goats. So to worm or not to worm isn’t the true question, but when to worm is. Worming only when needed will save you time and money, and possibly keep your goats healthier and make the worms weaker. By worming when needed you don’t need to change the wormer and you’ll only worm for what your goats have instead of generic.

I want to thank Rebekkah for setting up the class with Mike. And I want to thank Ken for taking the pictures. I want to thank Mike for all his knowledge and his experience and his time to teach us young goat people the ropes of a pro. Most of the information covered was taken from the fourth edition of Veterinary Parasitology Reference Manual by William J. Foreyt and provided to Mike in a class he took years ago.

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