By: Ray Kruse
Little Brush Creek Farm

Having had problems on my farm with chemical resistance in stomach and intestinal worms, I began searching for ways to handle the worms without the use of chemicals. Discussions with the goat experts at the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, the local Extension Agents, my veterinarian, and my local parasitologist gave me several avenues to investigate and pursue.

In the end, I made two changes to my herd management. The first was to rotate the goats from pasture to pasture in a very strict regimen. Two to three weeks on a field and then 8 weeks minimum off that field. The idea was to prevent the goats from being infected with large numbers of worms.

However, knowing that 8 weeks is not enough time for the worm larvae to die off completely, I was interested in some method that might allow me to treat the goats while not allowing the worms to become resistant.

Methods that I plan to investigate include diatomaceous earth, a multi-compound herbal wormer, high tannin forage and copper boluses.

This study is the first to be done, and is centered around the use of copper boluses as a treatment in the prevention and/or reduction of high wormloads.

My investigation relied heavily on the information provided at and their copper study, which led me to believe that at best I might improve my goats and at worst I would not kill them but have no positive effect.

Some basic information on the study:

  1. No goat was given any treatment other than a copper bolus at the time of the first sample being taken. There was no treatment of any kind between the pre-bolus fecal and the post-bolus fecal.

  2. Any goat that did not participate in both samples is not included in the results. There were some goats that refused to provide a sample, and some that I did not catch for one or the other sampling.

  3. I collected my own samples, prepared and read my own slides. All raw data is available for anyone who wishes a copy. Egg counts as reported are ‘eggs per gram’.

  4. The first sample taken for this study was 22 April 2004. While the goat was confined pending the donation, a 12.5 gram copper bolus (Copasure) was given orally. The follow up sample was taken on 06 May 2004. Any goat in the herd over 50 pounds was treated with a copper bolus.

  5. I continued collecting samples every two weeks through 1 July 2004, and this data is tabulated and included to show general trending of the wormloads. There was an interruption to the sampling and from 1 July 2004 until 4 November 2004 there were no samples taken. A copper bolus was administered on 4 November 2004, with the same caveats as items 1, 2 and 3 above.

  6. The number in the parentheses is the number of samples taken.

22 April 2004 Before Bolus           6 May 2004     
Average 100.81 epg   2.80 epg
Average Boer 106.57   3.26
Average Saanen 73.33   0.67
Average Kiko 51.00   2.00
Highest Value 667 epg   21 epg
Lowest Value 0   0
# of Samples 27   27
High Boer (23) 667   21
High Saanen (3) 220   1
High Kiko (1) 51   2

As can be seen, there was a significant drop in the number of worm eggs counted, both for the Highest Value found as well as for the Average. Pasture rotation continued every 2-3 weeks, and fecal samples were taken every two weeks through 1 July 2004.

20 May 2004           3 June 2004      
Average 6.81  epg   9.73 epg
Average Boer 9.36   8.90
Average Saanen 0.67   2.33
Average Kiko 0.50   16.33
Highest Value 83  epg   50 epg
Lowest Value 0   0
# of Samples 31   30
High Boer (22) 83   (21) 25
High Saanen (3) 2   (3) 5
High Kiko (6) 3   (6) 50

17 June 2004           1 July 2004      
Average 17.47  epg   47.70 epg
Average Boer 19.25   38.96
Average Saanen 6.75   57.00
Average Kiko 17.50   88.50
Highest Value 137  epg   203 epg
Lowest Value 0   0
# of Samples 34   33
High Boer (24) 137   (24) 199
High Saanen (4) 19   (5) 203
High Kiko (6) 54   (4) 127

At the beginning of November, while some of the does were in a breeding pasture, there was a break in the outside distractions and a round of fecals of the main herd was taken.

4 November 2004 Before Bolus           17 November 2004      
Average 330.91  epg   91.22 epg
Average Boer 321.21   96.89
Average Saanen 48.50   22.50
Average Kiko 416.50   106.00
Highest Value 820  epg   305 epg
Lowest Value 3   0
# of Samples 23   23
High Boer (19) 820   305
High Saanen (2) 94   45
High Kiko (2) 730   209

Again, an increase (expected) in the total number of worm eggs per gram seen after a 4 month lack of sampling and 4 month lack of treatment, and another drop in egg counts occurred after the administration of the copper bolus on 4 November 2004.

One unusual aspect of the sampling program and the data collected concerns the breeding does. Samples for them were not taken until the end of the breeding segregation period, on 15 November 2004. This group was sampled, given a copper bolus and returned to the main herd. They were sampled again on 17 November 2004 with the main herd.

15 November 2004 Before Bolus           17 November 2004      
Average 151.17  epg   76.58 epg
Average Boer 241.33   83.67
Average Saanen 305.50   95.50
Average Kiko 64.83   68.14
Highest Value 558  epg   177 epg
Lowest Value 0   0
# of Samples 12   12
High Boer (3) 370   125
High Saanen (2) 558   177
High Kiko (7) 141   172

In this study, the second set of samples was taken only two days after the initial sample and the administration of the copper bolus. As with all medications, there is a certain amount of time required for any beneficial reaction. The two day time period may well explain the higher egg counts and lower reductions than were seen in the main herd as reported above for 4 November 2004 and 17 November 2004. However, it is interesting to note that even after a two day period, there is a reduction in egg counts.

The study was terminated with the samples taken on 17 November 2004.

Worm egg counts are always higher at the end of a grazing season that at the start. In addition, 2004 was the wettest on record in Kentucky. The summer warmth along with the wet conditions favored worm development and transmission of worm larvae to grazing goats.

My conclusion is that the copper bolus reduced worm egg counts in goats. Goats sampled 2 days after treatment still had high egg counts, but counts were reduced from the initial samples. Goats sampled 14 days after treatment with a copper bolus had much lower egg counts.

Additional material that may be of interest can be found at: (lambs)