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Goats, the same as sheep, but different

Boer goats. Source: Berwyn Young.
Boer goats. Source: Berwyn Young.

Maxine Lyndal-Murphy, ParaBoss News Editor

October 2016


Goats, the same as sheep, but different…

In general, the parasites that infect goats are mostly the same as those that infect sheep, and the disease outcomes and economic consequences of parasitic infections in goats are similar to those in sheep. However, there are differences. Differences that are important to know when managing worms in goats, and so WormBoss now helps goat owners to understand what is important about worm control when managing their goats.

Goats, if run in mixed grazing systems with sheep, tend to carry heavier worm burdens and suffer more adverse effects. By around 12–15 months of age, sheep have developed a stronger age-immunity (the exception being the late pregnant ewe) to control the continuous ingestion of infective larvae during grazing on pasture. By contrast, goats evolved as browsers or intermediate browsers, ingesting substantial amounts of tall woody plants and shrubs, even when other nutritional forage was available.

This pattern of feeding avoided ingestion of infective larvae and lessened the need to develop immunity to worms. Goats, however, do develop some immunity to worms as they age, but it is often incomplete, and even as adults they may carry heavy worm infections.

Browse plants are an interesting food source as they contain many potentially toxic components. Some of these compounds, while toxic, are also thought to have some anthelmintic (deworming) properties. Goats evolved a number of ways to manage toxins and it seems that these detoxification processes also cause anthelmintics to be metabolised faster, resulting in lower efficacies than in sheep.

Limited research suggests that goats require their own dose rates for many drench groups.  Drenching at sheep dose rates may result in under-dosing and this contributes to development of drench resistance. 

Goats, like sheep, have three or four roundworms that predominate and are very important economically, particularly in higher rainfall zones. Liver fluke and protozoan infections, such as coccidian, also often occur. Tapeworm is generally not very important.

Like sheep, the distribution of worm populations across the herd is aggregated, that is, relatively few goats carry most of the infection. So it is possible to select those animals that always carry lower worm burdens. And goats that constantly carry high worm burdens can be targeted for treatment or for culling. The benefit is that reduced drug use has been shown to delay the onset of drench resistance. 


  • Hoste H et al (2010) Goat-Nematode interactions: think differently. Trends in Parasitology 26: 376-381
  • Hoste H et al (2002) Control of gastrointestinal parasitism with nematodes in dairy goats by treating the host category at risk. Veterinary research 33 (5):531-45
  • Knox, M.  Hunt, P. (2014) Evaluation of anthelmintic efficacy and dosing practices in goats. MLA report  B.GOA.0088
  • Lyndal-Murphy et al (2007) Options for the control of parasites in the Australian Goat Industry-A situational analysis of parasites and parasite control.  MLA report B.GOA.0014.

WormBoss for goats

The WormBoss website now incorporates information about worm control for goats. It is not a separate website because many worm control topics are the same for both sheep and goats.

Therefore you will find some of the WormBoss web pages deal with both sheep and goats together.

Where there are reasonable differences in a topic, a page now has tabs, one for sheep and one for goats. If your device allows cookies, new pages will open at the sheep or goat tab according to whether you had a sheep or a goat tab open last.

There is also new information specifically for goats, which is on dedicated pages.

Like our sheep information, goats also have regional Worm Control Programs and Drench Decision Guides. These have been created specifically for goats. There is an extra region for goats: the East Coast, where relatively few sheep exist, but goats are common.

We also know that smallholders can’t always apply the same management practices as a commercial goat farm, therefore we’ve created a Program and DDG for Australian smallholders. This is for people who are able to regularly assess each individual goat and treat the individuals on an as-needs basis rather than a mob-basis.

The WormBoss team cannot respond to individual enquiries about worm control in your goats, but we welcome feedback that can improve the information we provide to all via the WormBoss website.