15 May 2020
Goat meat producers with low stocking rates who turn herds out to graze on long swards intermittently are reporting significantly less worm challenges.
Four goat meat businesses in Wales have come together for a project that aims to inform a more effective parasite dosing regime to improve daily live weight gains and reduce time to slaughter.
If they can do this, it will help enable the sustainable development of meat goat production in Wales.
The four farmers run herds in mid and south Wales, farming 270 Boer meat goats between them.
They came together for a two-year EIP Wales project to gain more clarity around the correct parasite dose rate for goats.
Sheep and goats are both hosts to the same gastrointestinal (GI) parasites. At present, there is limited published dose rates for the anthelmintic treatment of goats; instead, it is assumed to be higher than the recommended sheep dose - generally considered 1.5 times the dose for Levamisole (group 2 yellow drenches (2-LV)) and Macrocyclic lactone (group 3 clear drenches (3-ML)), twice the dose for monepantel (group 4 (4-AD)) and between 1.5-2 for Benzimadazole (group 1 white drenches (1-BZ)).
As goats metabolise toxins quicker than sheep, there is concern that this could be creating anthelmintic resistance within meat goat breeds.
The EIP project, which began a year ago, is establishing baseline data using body condition scoring (BCS), regular weighing, composite worm egg counts (WECs) and faecal egg counts (FEC) to examine if there are existing resistance issues within the herds.
The four farms have different management practices.
Enhanced herd resilience is being recorded in the herds grazing longer sward length and in differentiated aged groups, says Kate
Hovers, the veterinary surgeon working with the group.
“Where there is a combination of at least two of the following - low stocking, intermittent grazing or long sward length - herds are recording a significantly reduced worm challenge to the goats,’’ she says.
The goats that are managed as heavily stocked with a history of different groups rotating over the same grazing block are exhibiting resistance to both clear (ML) and white (BZ) wormers and respond effectively to Monepantel at twice the recommended dose for sheep.
Less extensively stocked goats also exhibit resistance to BZ and ML and a speciation test is ongoing.
As individual goats have been shown to have an impact on composite WECs, the farmers are being asked to be conscientious with recording BCS of specific individuals and, when there is an outlier to the group, to marking its sample with its identity.
The EIP group has benefitted from hands-on meat goat-specific BCS training from Dr Yoav Alony-Gilboa of Friars Moor Vets, Dorset.
BCS has proven to be a highly effective method of identifying trends and outliers within herds.
When feed space, individual health, gestation and age are equal, BCS can be an indicator of a worm burden within an individual, or throughout the group.
One of the group members is Meg McNamara, who farms in Pembrokeshire. She and her husband built up a herd of 250 Boer goats plus followers over four years before downsizing considerably in late 2019 to concentrate on their young family.
They continue with a successful business selling breeding stock and supplying quality goat and kid meat direct to consumers throughout the UK.
The project, she says, is helping to inform alternative management systems in relation to grazing and endoparasite control.
For Debbie Church, who farms 130 goats in a housed system with access to six acres of grazing at Fronrhydd in Pembrokeshire, the investigative testing and study of her management system had helped her to better understand the underlying cause and effect of the worm burden issue within her herd.
She has built up a successful business selling directly via an on-site shop and to a varied customer base across the UK including individuals and restaurant chefs with a passion for local, sustainable produce.
The other two group members are Andy Menzies and Sue Leyshon.
As a direct result of the project, Andy, who runs around 50 goats at Llanerfyl, says he has increased the efficiency of his worming strategy and, in so doing, reduced his costs.
“Utilising FEC and BCS has increased my knowledge of the Boer goat as a grazing meat producing animal,’’ he says.
Sue farms 19 does and sells all surplus youngstock as meat to the public through private sales and as burgers via a fast food outlet near Llangadog.
“We are gaining knowledge as the project progresses and questioning how we farm our goats,’’ she says.
As part of the next phase of the project, FECs have been carried out on the adult goats in the pre-kidding period up to early spring 2020; once kid goats have reached about six weeks old they will also be included in the faecal sampling throughout the worm season.
Post treatment testing will also continue on all farms to determine the efficacy of the dosing rates used.
“This project will hopefully help develop a more effective dosing regime for meat goats that can improve the daily live weight gain of the animal and therefore reduce the time to slaughter,’’ says Lynfa Davies.
“If goat meat consumption becomes more of a mainstream product, it is essential that a livestock health care scheme to manage them effectively evolves.’’