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The glamorous life of homesteading…following your goats around and collecting poop, then taking said poop and smashing it around and filling with a solution so you can look at it under a microscope. That should make everyone want to homestead right?
If you have goats (or sheep or…any livestock for that matter) you are going to have worms. No matter how good your management is. Management is what keeps them at reasonable levels that don’t affect your animals much. If you want to save time, money, and your animals, doing fecals yourself is the way to go. One of our goals here is to spend as minimal as possible to have excellent and healthy animals. Unfortunately, there aren’t many vets that are extremely knowledgeable about goats and the diseases and parasites that can afflict them. As a homesteader, you have to be your own vet and know what you are dealing with and how to deal with it. Being able to do it right then and there and not have to spend the time driving to the vet and waiting can sometimes be very valuable to your animal’s health.
We had one of our best does start showing some interesting symptoms a couple weeks ago. She got on the milk stand looking really thin along the spine and hollowing out a bit. She was also running a low fever and didn’t care for feed that day. Her production had dropped a bit over the course of 2 days before as well. I got on my goat forum and posted, which of course the first thing is, “get a fecal done”. Well, this was a Sunday and I’d have to wait for Monday to see the vet. A more local acquaintance I met on the board let me know she had goats present with the same symptoms and her issue was bankrupt worms. She offered to run fecals for me and teach me what to look for as well as share some meds with me once we found out what it was. Perfect! I was picking up another doe that day that I knew had a worm load, so after I picked her up, I brought over 2 bags of poop and we got to looking at slides.
The results, our doe had bankrupt worms indeed! The new doe was loaded with barber pole, bankrupt, and brown stomach worms, it’s no wonder she was so anemic as those are all blood-sucking parasites. I’m surprised she was still standing with the amount I saw. We quickly gave them Prohibit that evening (the only thing that kills bankrupt worm) and by a couple days later, they were doing MUCH better. We did a lot of other things to help rebuild their blood cells and rumen back up as well. 2 weeks later they both look great and you’d never know there was an issue, they’ve had repeat clean fecals!
I came home and immediately ordered supplies to do my own fecals. I was going to need to check to make sure the worms were gone after 7-10 days. I spent $30 on my microscope, an old university one on eBay, and probably $20 for slides, coverslips and a couple beakers. Later I realized I could get by without the beakers but it’s nice to have. It’s already paid for itself many times as our vet charges us $20 for each fecal! You don’t need a lot of the fancy supplies that many sites state. This is all I’ve needed:
- Microscope with 4x 10x 40x and preferably a light. Some say a mechanical stage is needed, it’s been fine for me without.
- Glass slides. Some say a McMaster slide is needed to do proper counts, I don’t do counts, I treat based on what I see.
- Glass coverslips.
- Solution – Make your own by adding Epsom salt to a jar of water. Shake constantly and when it is dissolved, add more. Keep shaking and adding more until it does not dissolve anymore. Strain out the salt and store your solution.
- Container with a top small enough to set a coverslip on top of. Prescription pill bottles work perfectly for this.
- Popsicle sticks. Get them at the dollar store, use for mixing solution with the poop.
- A small cup that is easy to pour from.
That is really it. Your biggest expense is the microscope and the slides. I found slides with coverslips on Amazon for about $10. The only other thing that would be beneficial is “Veterinary Clinical Parasitology” by Sloss and Kemp. Editions 1-5 only as the newer edition has been re-done and not as beneficial. I found my copy for about $4 on Ebay. It is filled with clear pictures of various worm eggs. You can also find several on google.
Once you have your supplies, there are many websites and youtube videos that can easily show you how to go about doing your own fecals. It is super easy and simple Once you have a specific way, keep doing them that way to keep your results consistent. Once you realize the time and money savings, you’ll wish you’d have learned about it long before.
Let us know if you have learned this homestead skill and how much easier it’s made your life.