Monday, September 16, 2013

Here's the Scoop....

....on Nettie's Poop.  Because I know you are all just going to be thrilled that I'll be talking about goat crap today.  Maybe even tomorrow.  But fortunately, no cow poop.  Because that would just be silly.

So.  We got a good (i.e. not Toy's R Us kind'a scope, but not an electron microscope either) microscope last year.  My reasons for getting one were two-fold.  Rhiannon's going to eventually need one for her homeschooling science classes and I really didn't like spending $20 a pop at the vet's office to drop off some goat berries to have them tell me that the sample was "ok".

What exactly, is "OK"?  I guess I should have pressed for more information from them, but I figured an "OK" was good enough for me.  But then that got me thinking.  How many parasite eggs is considered normal for my herd?  What types of parasites should I be worming for?  How often should I really be worming my herd?

There are many people out there (exactly where is there, and who the heck are they anyhow???) that claim that wormers do practically nothing for goats; that the wormers have been so overused that most goats are practically resistant to all the chemical wormers. Then, there isn't even a "Everything" wormer out there.  Most are just a broad spectrum wormer, promising to get rid of certain types of worms.  I've also heard the pros & cons of herbal worming compounds.

When we first got our goats, I was into the "All Natural Hippy Dippy" mind frame that we wouldn't use any chemicals, medicines, etc., when it came to caring for them.  I wanted my goats to build up a natural immunity to parasites.  I used to top dress the goat feed with herbal wormers.  I tried to keep things all neat & tidy & clean & sparkly so we wouldn't have any sickness.

Then we had a bad year.  Like, two goats dead.  One we put down because she had a serious case of pink eye that would keep popping up no matter how many herbal and traditional remedies we applied.  Then one of Nettie's doelings had a really hard kidding and got sick.  I kept an eye on her, but should have really dosed her up with antibiotics at the first sign of a fever.  But I didn't.  And she ended up dead.  Now they really didn't end up six feet under strictly because of worms/parasites, but a heavy parasite load can and will weaken a goat's body to where it isn't as easy for them to fight off those really nasty illnesses.

Now my Livestock Medicine Cabinet has antibiotics, chemical wormers and a myriad of other traditional medicines (i.e. not eye of newt and a bat wing doused in weasel urine) right along side the more natural herbs like wormwood, black walnut hulls & raw pumpkin seeds, and baking soda and probiotics.

The microscope is now also one of my weapons in the fight against goat maladies.  Because as we all know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  So getting back to the goat poop.

So here's what ya gott'a do if you want to look at stuff in poo.....

Gather the necessary equipment:
Microscope & slides
Test tubes (or other tall & narrow glass container with a flat & narrow top)
Small plastic throw-away cup (empty yogurt cup is great for this)
Epson Salt (or sugar)
Chop stick (or other disposable item for smooshing poop)
Cheese cloth (the cheap kind)
Goat willing to poop in a zippy bag.

The Day Before
Make a solution using either Epson Salt or Sugar.  I think the offical recipe for a salt solution is 1 pound of Epson Salt to one cup of water.  But I just winged it and put a cup or so of water in a glass and poured the Epson Salt into it until it was so saturated that it would not dissolve any more of the salt.  This took almost a day, but I just kept putting in salt & stirring whenever I thought about it.  And sometimes I forgot, so it probably took longer than it should have.

Poop Day
Find a goat and follow it around until it poops, then quickly shove zippy bag behind them to catch falling goat berries.  At which point the goat will totally freak out and run away, leaving you with an empty zippy bag and a lot of time to wait until the next poop.  You thought that goats are always pooping, right?  Well, they are.  Until the time you need them to crap-on-command.  Then everybody suddenly becomes constipated.  I'm actually pretty lucky.  I've noticed that when goats are laying down for a while, one of the first things they do once you make them get up is take a few steps and poop.  I was fortunate enough to go out to the goat yard and find Nettie under the barn.  I tempted her with a bucket of grain to get her to come out, then just waited like ten seconds after she got up & stuck her head in the bucket.  This "head in the feed bucket" also reduces your chances of the goat looking back to see a zippy bag placed by her butt.  But it does exponentially increase your chances of every other single goat within a quarter mile radius running you over in order to stick their heads into the feed bucket.

Poop in a bag.  Check.

Now put four goat turds into the yogurt cup (or other small, disposable cup of your choosing) and pour a few tablespoons of the salt/sugar solution in with the turds and smash them up into a poop soup using your chopstick (or other disposable item like one of the six-hundred sporks in the little salt/pepper/spork/napkin packets that you get with your favorite chinese take-out that you keep saving in your kitchen drawer thinking you'll use them one day).

Take a small square of cheap cheesecloth & fold it over a few times so there are four layers of cloth, then place it over the yogurt cup, secure it with a rubber band, then strain the poop soup into your test tube and top it off with the salt solution until it is almost overflowing.  Don't have a test tube or other long, skinny glass container?  Truth be told (and I do so love telling the nasty truth around here), I used a shot glass.  Because I never made the effort to order test tubes.  But I do now have an order in, along with some more scientific stuff.  Ok?  Ok then, let's move on.

The only drawback with using a shot glass (besides not being able to use said shot glass for whiskey any longer) is that you'll need much more of the solution to fill the glass.  Because you need the strained poop soup/salt solution to fill to the tippy-top of the glass container in order for you to "grab" up the floating parasite eggs with the glass slide.  So do yourself a favor and don't procrastinate like I did.  Buy the stinking test tubes.  Right now.

Once you've got your test tube (or shot glass) filled to the top, you'll need to keep it someplace undisturbed for about 20 minutes.  If you were a good scientist, you'll have already purchased your test tubes and maybe even one of those fancy test tube holders.  If you didn't buy the holder, make one using a cardboard box, make "X"'s in the top and shove the tubes in through that.  If you're me, you'll make sure that the shot glass is placed where it does not pique any toddler, husband or feline's interest and cause glass of watered-down feces to become spilt - or worse yet - accidentally sipped by someone with an overactive sense of adventure and an underdeveloped sense of smell.

About a half-hour later, grab your slide and place it over the test tube / shot glass, then flip the slide over carefully so you keep most of the liquid on there, place the cover glass on the slide, and put it on the microscope.

I started looking at 10x10 zoom, then when I thought I saw something that looked like an egg, I clicked over to the 40x10 zoom.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, but once you see an egg it's pretty easy to scan the slide for them.  Nettie's sample came up with only one type of egg and I'm pretty sure it the common thread worm (Strongyloides papillosus) a type of intestinal worm.  Actually kind'a freaky as there's a little worm moving around in the egg.

According to one website, the thread worms don't shed tons of eggs, so a dozen eggs in a slide would indicate a decent worm load.  Since I'm drying up Nettie anyhow, I decided to orally dose her with 4 ml of Ivomec to get rid of the worms.  I'm going to give it a few days and then do another sample to see if it was effective as well as taking samples from another goat to see if the rest of  the herd needs worming.  Let's hope that my order of test tubes show up before then.


  1. Some parasites may be a good thing, it is the bad ones that over produce and cause problems so what you are doing is good in that you are seeing exactly what is there.
    In people they are finding that cultures with intestinal parasites don't have the diseases that us civilized people have, the worms do something good is the assumption. It may be a coincidence so I am not going out and get worms right away.

  2. Call me a complete wuse, but I so did not need to read this post this morning. Eeeuuuww! (Just kidding. Not.) Very educational. You are a very good, responsible goat mama/caretaker/vet.

  3. I'm impressed! Rhiannon is going to be one smart girl with a teacher/mommy like you!
    The time I collected urine from my goat for a preg. test was a hoot. My little one will never forget that experience LOL!!!!

  4. I may have to sign up for classes at the University of Krazo. This was very interesting - and informative - and hilarious. How DO you do it?

  5. HAHAHA the Poop collector.

    I think I might have tried a slightly different approach like a small temporary pen made with a cattle panel over an area that had been raked clean and had fresh straw put down. My method would take more time though.

  6. Sunnybrook, wouldn't that be great if there were a fat-eating parasite? That would just suck the fat out of my thighs? Oh, wishful thinking.

    Mama Pea, Yea.....I probably should have put a "warning" at the beginning of the page. Nothing like poopsoup to brighten your morning.

    Susan, I amaze myself sometimes.

    PP, now what fun would that be?

    1. Carolyn dear. Rest assured that if my wife had wanted a poop sample I would have let her run with your system. The fun (for me) would be worth a million :)

  7. Great post and I'm glad you did NOT find a lot of worms! You sure had me laughing imagining you running around chasing goats with a plastic bag to collect poop berries!
    P.S. I don't know if you follow Teresa at Eden Hills blog but she did a 3-part series about parasites in goats last week. Here is the link to Part III

  8. Started reading your post thinking that this is a good idea and really informative, but by half way through I couldn't stop laughing! I have goats and can just imagine how they would react to the zippy bag behind them. I run a mixed farm (some unkindly call it a zoo) so I worm every 3 months. This seems to work well. By the way the zoo is made up of 3 goats, 4 alpacas, 1 black faced suffolk sheep, 1 very very large steer -called Mr Moo, 4 chickens, 3 ducks and a dog.