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Agriculture and Livestock

Parasites in Goats

Parasites continue to be an important concern for goat farmers and producers. These parasites can cause economic and production losses and even serious illness and death in goats. In fact, internal parasites are recognized as a common disease among goats.

An infected goat may show symptoms and become lethargic, have diarrhea, lose weight or barely be able to maintain their weight. However these signs can easily go unnoticed, posing a serious threat to the health and safety of your animal.

Internal parasites infect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, lungs, blood system, lymphatic system, and skin of a goat.

Parasites are present in almost every herd in the United States. The most common parasites that infect these herds are barber pole worms, round worms, stomach worms, Cooper’s worms, wire worms, hookworms, threadworms, whipworms, and nodular worms, lung worms and meningeal or brain worm.

An adult worm lives in the stomach of a goat where it lays a large number of eggs. These eggs are passed in manure. The eggs develop and hatch within 5 days to several months. Warm and wet conditions are most favorable for the development of the eggs.

A goat becomes infected when it consumes these parasites while out on pasture or in a barn. Larvae that hatch out in the pasture are splashed onto blades of grass by the rain where they are then consumed by goats. It is necessary for a goat to ingest the larvae in order for it to complete its life cycle.

Once they have been consumed, the larvae take approximately 2 to 3 weeks to mature and begin to lay eggs in the goat’s stomach. Some larvae may also become dormant after they have been eaten. These larvae wait to develop and are often immune to de-wormers.

Sufficient damage is caused to a goat by these parasites. Larvae in the stomach damage gland cells and parasites such as barber pole worms live on blood, removing considerable amounts from the animal. The parasite may remove blood faster than the animal can replace it, resulting is death.

Brain worms are transferred to goats by deer. The brain worms live in the lining of a deer’s brain and are passed in their feces. While these worms are not dangerous to the deer, they can have very harmful effects on goats. The larvae in the deer’s manure are eaten by snail and slugs which in turn are consumed by goats out on pasture.

Goats are most at risk out in the pasture when the weather has been damp and warm. However, larvae can survive winter conditions, if they are not too harsh, and therefore may be found in pastures in the early spring.

It is important to have a veterinarian check stool samples in order to determine what type of parasites are infecting your goats, the extent of the infection and what you can do to treat them.

A simple check that you can perform yourself involves looking for signs of anemia. This can be done by checking your goats’ gums as well as underneath their eyelids. These areas should be bright pink or red in color. If they are pale pink or grey your goat is showing signs of anemia and this is an indication that they should be de-wormed. Dirty rear ends from diarrhea can also be a sign that your goat may be infected with internal parasites.

In order to prevent parasites it is important that you maintain proper grazing management. This means moving goats to a new pasture once it has been grazed down to a certain level. Orchard grass and fescue should be grazed when the plants are between 3 inches and 10 inches tall and Bluegrass and clover should be grazed when the plants are 2 inches to 5 inches tall.

The best way to protect your animals is to de-worm them a few days before sending them out to pasture in the spring and then again several weeks later. In order to protect them through the winter months it is best to de-worm them when the weather becomes cold and frost begins to show up. This will remove any parasites that they have consumed and protect them throughout the winter.

During the summer many farmers de-worm their entire herd while others only treat goats that show sign of infection. A major concern with de-worming goats is that over time the parasites may become immune to certain de-wormers. It is important to use a variety of de-worming methods and preventative techniques.

Whichever method you prefer, it is important to treat your goats in order to protect them from deadly infections of internal parasites. Be sure to monitor the effectiveness of your de-worming applications and consult a veterinarian for professional advice.

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Agriculture and Livestock

Diatomaceous Earth for Organic Production

The trend towards organic agriculture continues to be important as individuals strive to create a sustainable future.

For many years people have used diatomaceous earth for various purposes including external pest control and as a food filtering aid. However, is this substance a permitted substance for use in organic production?

The answer is “YES”. According to Canadian Organic Growers, Food Grade diatomaceous earth is considered a natural product and is contained on the Permitted Substances List for organic production.

Diatomaceous Earth is contained on the permitted substances lists for livestock production, crop production and processing. Permitted uses include

  • Natural plant protectant (natural insecticide)
  • Anti-caking agent in feed to a maximum of 2% if the total diet
  • External parasite control for livestock (achieved by dusting the animals and the litter or bedding area)
  • Food filtering aid or clarifying agent

Red Lake Diatomaceous Earth falls into the organic production category.

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Agriculture and Livestock

Monitoring Lice in Livestock

While lice in cattle may seem harmless, a large infestation can in fact cause substantial financial loss due to decreased health and productivity.

Lice are tiny insects that live on an animal’s body. They can cause severe itching and result in many other negative effects including loss of appetite, decreased weight gain, stress and a decreased ability to fight disease.

There are two types of lice – chewing and biting lice and sucking lice.

Chewing and biting lice feed on debris on the surface of the skin such as dead skin, scabs, hair and skin secretions. Sucking lice, on the other hand, feed on blood and serum from the animal’s body, and are the most concerning.

Lice can spread throughout a herd and are passed on through direct contact. Infestations are most common during cold, winter weather when the animals’ thick coats create an ideal environment for the lice.

While it may not always be easy to spot a louse infestation in your cattle, there are several signs to watch for.

Signs of lice in cattle include:

  • Rough hair/shaggy appearance
  • Excessive licking and rubbing
  • Hair loss/bald areas on the face, neck, back, shoulders and the base of the tail
  • Loss of appetite
  • Poor weight gain
  • Pale appearance
  • Lack of energy

The presence of lice and the extent of infestation can be determined using a simple monitoring technique.

To determine the presence of lice on your cattle, examine five areas (each about four inches long) on the animal’s body. These areas should include those where lice most commonly accumulate including the dewlap (or brisket), cheek, muzzle, around the eyes, withers, topline and tailhead. Use a comb to part the animal’s hair and a light to help examine the area for lice on the skin.

Count the lice observed in these five areas to determine the severity of the infestation. If less than ten lice are observed (in total) then only a minimal infestation exists. If the number of lice totals ten to fifty, a moderate infestation is present. Fifty-one or more lice signify a heavy infestation.

There are many treatments available to help treat a lice infestation. Some operations may require a natural alternative in which case producers have found diatomaceous earth (such as DE-cide) and other natural substances to be effective.

For more information on diatomaceous earth and other lice management techniques, please see: Natural Control of Lice in Cattle

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Agriculture and Livestock

Natural Control of Lice in Cattle

A large infestation of lice in cattle can be very harmful to the animals’ health as well as detrimental to a herd’s productivity. In fact, lice can cause extreme irritation, decreased milk production, appetite and feed conversion as well as blood loss, damage to the cows’ hide and unnecessary stress.

In organic operations, producers require a natural solution however, even in operations that do not require organic management strategies, a natural, chemical-free alternative is often preferred.

Strong prevention management practices focusing on nutrition and environment should always be employed to help decrease the likelihood of a severe infestation. Steps that can be taken to help prevent an infestation include:

  • Keeping animals outdoors as much as possible
  • Avoiding close confinement of the animals
  • Providing the herd with quality feed and essential minerals
  • Creating a stress free environment
  • Providing a clean, dry environment
  • Carefully observing new animals before introducing them into the herd (for example, it is often a good idea to keep the new animal in confinement for the first few weeks so that it can be determined that the animal is not carrying lice)
  • Ensuring that the herd does not come in contact with other herds

According to the Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada, in the case of an infestation, diatomaceous earth can be an effective natural control for lice.

It has been noted by producers that diatomaceous earth (often in combination with other elements such as sulphur) applied externally to an animal can help to kill parasites such as lice.

For more information on how to identify and evaluate the severity of an infestation, please see: Monitoring Lice in Livestock

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Agriculture and Livestock

Ulcers in Horses: Prevention Management Practices

Ulcers are a very common health issues in horses therefore, it is important that necessary management practices are established in order to reduce the likelihood of the development of ulcers.

For information on common causes of equine ulcers check out Horse Health: What Causes Ulcers

The following are steps that can be taken to address the causes discussed in the article above and to help decrease the likelihood that your animal will develop ulcers.

Diet

Increase the amount of roughage in your horse’s diet by providing free-choice access to grass or hay.

Avoid or decrease the amount of grain in the diet. If possible, putting your horse on pasture is the best alternative.

Feed your horse more frequently or increase the amount of time he or she spends eating.

Provide probiotics to aid in digestion.

Stress

Try to decrease the amount of stress your horse experiences. If your horse must be stalled, arrange for him or her to be able to see the other horses that he or she socializes with. As well, offering a ball or other object that your horse can play with in the stall may also help to reduce stress.

Medication

Certain medications can increase the production of acids in the stomach therefore it may be beneficial to avoid these medications or to try to offset this production by using the practices above.

There are also medications that can help to decrease acid production. However, these are only necessary for horses that exhibit signs of clinical disease or when other factors, such as stress, cannot be removed.

The prevention of ulcers is the most important step that you can take to ensure your horse’s health.

Please note: It is always important to consult and follow the advice of your veterinarian in regards to any health related issues with your horse.

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Agriculture and Livestock

Horse Health: What Causes Ulcers?

It is very common for horses and foals to have stomach ulcers. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 50% of foals and 33% of adult horses that are confined in stalls have mild ulcers, with up to 60% of show horses and 90% of racehorses developing moderate to severe ulcers!

Many factors can contribute to the development of ulcers. Below are the most common causes of ulcers in horses:

Diet

In humans, the production of hydrochloric acid is stimulated by eating. In horses, however, hydrochloric acid is constantly produced. Horses have therefore evolved to be grazers, frequently eating small meals in order to help reduce the damaging effects of the acid in their stomachs. If a horse does not eat frequently the acid can accumulate in the stomach and irritate it, causing ulcers.

As well, the consumption of high volumes of concentrates (e.g. sweet feed, pelleted feed) can also lead to the development of ulcers, as concentrates can increase the production of acids. On the other hand, roughage intake can help to decrease damage to the stomach, as it requires more chewing, stimulating the production of saliva. This saliva, when swallowed, helps to neutralize stomach acid.

Exercise

Strenuous exercise can also attribute to the development of ulcers in horses. Exercise can increase the amount of time that it takes for the stomach to empty therefore, if a horse does not eat frequently and engages in strenuous exercise, his or her empty stomach will be exposed to large amounts of acid for long periods of time.

Studies have also shown that training can have an effect on acid levels in the stomach. Research has shown that horses may experience higher acid levels during training. As well, it was discovered that when a horse is galloping, pressure from the abdomen can cause the stomach to contract, pushing acid from the lower stomach up in to the more vulnerable upper stomach, increasing acid exposure.

Stress

Stress, both environmental and physical, can increase the likelihood of ulcers by decreasing the amount of blood flow to the stomach. Decreased blood flow to the area makes the lining of the stomach more vulnerable to damage from stomach acid.

Training, hauling, frequent competitions, unfamiliar surroundings and mixing groups of horses can all be factors that contribute to stress and the development of ulcers.

Medications

Certain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) (eg. phenylbutazone, also known as Bute, and flunixin meglumine, also known as Banamine) or corticosteroids (eg. prednisolone, dexamethasone) can also contribute to the development of ulcers in horses. For instance, NSAIDS block the production of a chemical called PgE2 which helps to decrease acid production. Without the production of this chemical acid levels can become very high in the stomach.

For more information on management practices that can be employed to help decrease the likelihood of the development of ulcers in your horse please see: Ulcers in Horses: Prevention Management Practices

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Agriculture and Livestock

Thrush in Horses: Prevention and Treatment

Thrush is a bacterial infection of the spongy, triangular shaped part of a horses hoof called the frog.

Thrush can cause great pain to a horse and, if left untreated, can lead to lameness. Other signs of thrush in horses include tenderness in the heel region of the hoof, resistance to having his or her feet picked up and cleaned or inspected, uneven wear of the hoof wall and tattered or cracked frogs. In many cases thrush can also be identified by its pungent smell and dark discharge however, this is not always the case. In fact, many horse owners and vets miss the infection upon inspection.

Thrush is caused by wet, unhygienic stable conditions (although it can also thrive in the hoof in dry conditions – flourishing in tight cracks and deep grooves), poor hoof care, prolonged confinement, overgrown ragged frogs, and long, contracted or high heels which produce deep grooves in the horse’s hoof. It has been suggested that a dietary component may also play a role, as horses on high carbohydrate are often more likely to have thrush.

Thrush can be prevented by good stable management and regular foot care and inspection. It is important to stable your horse in clean, dry conditions and to have his or her feet regularly trimmed and shod to avoid the development of long heel conformation and to keep the frog healthy.

In the case that your horse has thrush, he or she should be moved to a clean, dry area. The foot should be thoroughly cleaned out and the horn pared down to healthy tissue, in order to allow air to reach any remaining damaged tissues. The frog and grooves in the hoof should also be cleaned and scrubbed daily.

There are many products available to help cure thrush however, it has recently been found that a mixture of food grade diatomaceous earth and oregano applied to the cracks and crevices of the hoof can help.

In severe cases, or for more information on how to prevent and cure thrush, please contact your veterinarian.

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Agriculture and Livestock

Estimating Horse Weight

Knowing your horse’s weight can be very useful for many purposes including calculating feed rations and knowing how much of a de-wormer to administer.

It is not always easy to find a scale that will accommodate the weight of a horse therefore the next best option is to estimate the horse’s weight using one of the following methods.

The most common method used to calculate the weight of a horse is a height/weight tape. When wrapped around the horse’s girth, this special tape will display an approximate estimate of the horse’s weight. This tool has been around for many years and is considered to be quite reliable.

Another method is to calculate the horse’s weight using your own measurements. Simply measure the horse’s girth and length (in inches) and calculate his or her weight using the following formula:

Formula to measure a horse's weight

In order to measure girth (heart girth):
Measure (in inches) from the base of the withers down to a couple of inches behind the horse’s front legs, then under his or her belly and up the opposite side to where you started.
Note: your tape measure should run at an angle.
In order to measure body length:
Measure (in inches) from the point of the horse’s shoulder to the point of his or her rump.
Note: your tape measure should be running at an angle.
A calibrated weight scale will always give the most accurate weight however these suggested methods can be utilized in order to obtain a reasonable estimated value.
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Agriculture and Livestock

Why Are Barns Red?

Farmlands across North America are dotted with red barns. For many years red has been the cliché color for a barn. But why? What created this tradition of the red barn?

Red has been adopted as the color of choice for barns for centuries not due to its aesthetic appeal but, rather, due to its useful effects and the early adoption of home-made sealants.

Before a time when paint, sealants and other building materials were readily available from the local hardware store, farmers were forced to create their own paint that would seal and protect the wood on their barns.

One of the first substances used as a sealant consisted of a mixture of linseed oil, an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant, milk, lime and ferrous oxide (or rust). Rust was abundant on farms and was very effective as a sealant due to the fact that it would kill any fungi and moss that might grow on the structure. The combination acted as a long-lasting paint that would dry and harden quickly. It was due to the added rust that the mixture was red in color.

In the 1800’s, red paint was inexpensive and continued to be used on barns, as it was discovered that the red helped to absorb sun rays in the winter, keeping the barn warmer.

It has also been suggested that animal blood was combined with milk to act as a staining agent.

Although many viable color and sealant options exist today, red continues to be used as a common barn color due to this age-old tradition.

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Agriculture and Livestock

Facts About Animals: Goats

Who knew that goats were such interesting animals? Check out these interesting facts about goats.

Did you know…

  • Goats were the first animals to be tamed by humans.
  • Humans began herding goats approximately 9000 years ago.
  • Goats are members of the cattle family. They are closely related to sheep, deer and bison. Distant relatives include giraffes, ibex, and antelopes.
  • There are over 210 breeds of goats.
  • The world population of goats is estimated to be 450 million.
  • Approximately 6 to 8 % of the world’s goat population can be found in North America. The majority of the world goat population however can be found in the Mideast and Asia.
  • Goats have no upper front teeth but instead a hard “gum pad”. A goat’s age can be determined by the configuration of and wear on their teeth.
  • A goat with parasites and worms that is left untreated will most likely suffer many negative health effects that may decrease production and even result in death.
  • Female goats can weigh between 22 to 220 pounds and male goats can weigh between 27 to 275 pounds.
  • Both male and female goats can have horns and beards.
  • A goat’s pupils are rectangular in shape.
  • Generally a goat lives 10 to 12 years however there have been cases of goats living up to the age of 15.
  • Goats are very intelligent and social creatures. They prefer to surround themselves with other goats of their same breed. Goats are able to recognize their mothers even if they have been separated for years.
  • Some breeds of goats are able to jump over 5 feet.
  • A male goat is known as a buck or billy and a female is known as a doe or nanny. Young goats are called kids and a castrated male is called a wether. Male goats under the age of 1 are referred to as bucklings and white female goats less than a year old are called doelings.
  • A group of goats may be called a herd, trip or tribe. Herds are generally led by a female called the “herd queen”.
  • Male goats can breed as young as 4 months old and females once they have reached the age of 7 months.
  • Pregnancy for a goat lasts approximately 150 days or 5 months.
  • A goat may have 1-6 kids per litter. Twins are most common.
  • The United States in the largest importer of goats, while Australia is the largest exporter.
  • It is estimated that more people eat goat meat and drink goat milk than that from any other animal. In fact, approximately 72% of the world’s milk consumption is goat milk.
  • Goat meat is referred to as Chevon or Cabrito. It is lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, pork and even chicken.
  • Goats are often kept with racehorses as a companions to help keep the horse calm.
  • A goat has 4 stomachs.
  • Goats are often recognized as the founders of coffee. Ancient goat herders noticed that goats became much more energetic after consuming beans that later turned out to be those from a coffee plant, leading to the discovery of coffee.
  • Cashmere comes from the Cashmere goat. A Cashmere goat can produce about one pound of fleece per year.

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