Goats enjoy spicy food. Or, at least, they enjoy herbs and spices mixed in their free choice mineral, according to Kimberly VanTassell, dairy goat owner/breeder, in Cabool, Missouri. VanTassell’s family owns a cow dairy and currently keeps a herd of about 30 mostly Alpine does.
"We also have some La Manchas and a couple Nubians," she said. "We had been milking a much larger herd and shipping the milk to an all natural raw milk cheese plant but that was shut down by the government. That put us out of the commercial goat dairy business," she said.
"Now we’re selling milk off the farm to individuals and feeding the calves goat milk. Some people might say it is just an expensive hobby right now."
When the VanTassell family was selling goat milk to the raw milk cheese plant they milked around 90 does. Since southern Missouri’s humid wet climate is a parasite paradise, they struggled to control worms in a natural way. "When we were shipping milk to the all-natural cheese plant I looked at some of the commercial natural wormers," VanTassell said. "They are pretty expensive when you have 90 goats, so I started to look at the ingredients of the all-natural wormers. Then I started doing some research on the Internet."
What VanTassell learned intrigued her. Cinnamon is supposed to be a natural wormer and so is ground mustard seed. Cayenne pepper is helpful too. "The cayenne pepper has two purposes," she said. "I had read that it worked as a natural antibiotic so it brings down the somatic cell count. It also works as a wormer. I read that the dry mustard and the cloves help with coccidiosis also."
When VanTassell had done her research and developed a list of ingredients, she went shopping at a local bulk herb store. She was ready to start putting her concoction, as she calls it, together.
In addition to the cinnamon, cayenne pepper, mustard, and cloves she added garlic, parsley, and oregano to the concoction. To top it all off she added some granular feed grade probiotics and baking soda. "We put baking soda in it to neutralize the acidity in their stomachs," she said. "There’s acidosis going on and they look bloated but aren’t. When we started putting the baking soda in there that went down."
To make their concoction the VanTassells mixed one-third of a cup of each ingredient into a large coffee can. Then they sprinkled it over their free choice mineral. She said the stuff smelled great and the goats went for it immediately.
"The goats love it," she said. "I was a little concerned the garlic would show up in our milk but it didn’t. We used dry diced garlic. We also put ginger in there. It has some natural qualities that make the stomach feel good and to help increase the appetite. We tried using diatomaceous earth but it was hard on the lungs of the preparer and the goats didn’t eat as much either."
"I can’t swear by this because we’ve only done it for about two years," VanTassell said. "It did seem to work well that first summer. We wormed the whole herd with a broad-spectrum wormer at freshening to be sure the worms didn’t wipe out the kids. During the summer we had to worm a few individuals but we didn’t do the whole herd again until fall rut. This year we got back into it late in the spring and so far they are doing pretty good."
VanTassell said they will continue to use the herbs and spices for a few more years before they are convinced of their effectiveness. One or two seasons aren’t enough time for their original concoction to be proven. Parasite problems are different every year, she said.
"This year was really bad," she said. "Everyone in the area had worms with their goats and sheep."
As VanTassell discovered, there are a lot of websites that sell, or talk about, herbs to control parasites in livestock or pets. Some of them, such as bulkherbstore.com, list herbs that she doesn’t use such as rosemary, ground black walnut shells, and sage. The wormwood plant is, of course, recommended. The bulkherbstore.com has wormwood in its dewormer recipe but only suggests using the recipe for a short period of time. The Fiasco Farms website cautions against prolonged use of wormwood as well as using it on pregnant or lactating does.
This very powerful herb is especially good as a dewormer, as is Southernwood, according to information from the lavenderfleece.com website.
Although lavenerfleece.com focuses on sheep, it offers some interesting herbal deworming tips that may be useful with goats as well:
• Birch is useful in treating digestive ailments. The leaves are cleansing and will expel worms.
• Carrots are useful for eye disorders due to the carotene. They are good for all animals, and help to expel worms.
• Lemon is a good blood cleanser. Also good for fevers, diarrhea and worms and may be used externally for skin ailments, ringworm and mange and to cleanse sores. Add honey when using internally.
• Mulberry leaves and fruit are a good treatment for worms.
• Pumpkins are excellent for deworming sheep and a good source of vitamins.
Some of these claims may not be verified. Using natural dewormers takes time and a willingness to experiment. It also may require using a broad-spectrum wormer in the same way that the VanTassels do. For those trying to care for whole herd health in an economically feasible way, VanTassell made one final suggestion. "Look for the ingredients that are readily available and affordable," she said.