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Feedlotting or zero-grazing goats

Dairy goat owners have few options for treating goats for worms and many drench labels state they should not be used in goats whose milk is used for human consumption. Small backyard goat keepers often can’t rotationally graze their goats with other livestock and/or high stocking levels will create problems with worms from heavily contaminated paddocks.

Consider zero-grazing or feedlotting your goats as an alternative that will eliminate the need for ongoing worm control measures.

The following information refers to feedlotting with zero grazing, not to feedlotting situations where the goats have occasional access to pasture.

If goats already receive a lot of supplementary feed, e.g. hay and grain daily and/or they are milking goats that are kept to produce milk for sale, then well designed goat yards and feeders can solve goat worm problems. There must be absolutely no grazing or no grass in the yards and the feeders must be designed so that no manure contamination of the feed is possible. Feeders must also prevent goats’ feet from contaminating feed as dirty hooves can transfer worm eggs or larvae. Fence-line feeders like those shown in Figure 1 are ideal.


Figure 1. Fence-line feeder in a commercial goat dairy. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 1. Fence-line feeder in a commercial goat dairy. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.

Quarantine drench

When bringing goats into a feedlot, where possible, give them a quarantine drench to remove existing worms. If this is not possible, such as with dairy goats producing milk for human consumption, roundworms in the goats will eventually die over many months. However, liver fluke can live for some years.

If worms remain in the goats in a feedlot, worm eggs will be produced. These eggs may successfully hatch in the feedlot area if there is sufficient warmth and moisture (just as if they were in the paddock), but without pasture plants for the larvae to wriggle onto, very few larvae will be ingested by the goats.

Even without the use of drenches, the number of worms will decline until they are negligible or disappear completely.

Worm Egg Count testing

It is recommended that after goats are inducted into the feedlot with a quarantine drench, that you conduct a WormTest 10–14 days later. If worm eggs are still present at 10–14 days, the drench was not fully effective. However, provided the egg count is well below drenching thresholds (see the Drench Decision Guide) and the animals are to stay in a zero-grazing situation, a further drench should not be needed. If the count at 10–14 days was positive, continue testing at 6 weekly intervals (for a few months generally) until counts are below 50 epg.

If a drench upon entry was not carried out, do a worm egg count now and use the Drench Decision Guide to determine whether drenching is needed. Continue to test at 6 weekly intervals to ensure the worm egg counts reduce to (or close to) zero.

Once counts are close to zero, it may be wise to monitor periodically each 3–6 months (or earlier if signs indicate worms) to ensure that worms are not being introduced.

Other considerations

Dairy goats that are drenched must have their milk disposed of in a manner that does not allow for human consumption for the required withholding times stipulated by the label or veterinarian’s prescription. This is a significant economic cost if milk is being sold that could help fund the additional feed costs to compensate for the lost grazing.

Feedlotting can also protect against dog attacks and paralysis ticks; common problems in goats kept in peri-urban areas. Feedlotting is also a recognised management technique to prevent the spread of Johne’s disease.

Feedlots can be small and low cost as long as feeders are well designed.


Figure 2. Well-designed hay feeder in a dairy goat stud. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 2. Well-designed hay feeder in a dairy goat stud. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 3. Hay feeder and clean floor. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 3. Hay feeder and clean floor. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.


For feedlots to work there must be no grass at all. Grass should be killed with chemicals and then gravel, pine-bark or similar materials can be added to muddy areas. Special attention should be paid to areas around water troughs, as small amounts of grass can grow around them and can become heavily contaminated with worm larvae and can also present an increased risk of coccidiosis.

Play equipment should be provided in the feedlot area to encourage exercise.


Figure 4. Water trough with green grass growing nearby. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 4. Water trough with green grass growing nearby. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 5. Climbing play equipment for goats in a feedlot. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 5. Climbing play equipment for goats in a feedlot. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.


Feedlots should be cleaned out regularly and the old hay and manure composted in an area where drainage does not go back into the feedlot or onto browse or crops that will be cut for goats.

Previous pasture areas that will no longer be needed can be planted to fodder crops or permanent browse plants such as leucaena, mulberry, hibiscus, tree lucerne or bamboo for cutting for backyard goats.

Any feed to be used in the feedlot should be free of worm larvae. Green chop and cut pasture that has been grazed by sheep or goats in the 6 months before it was cut is likely to be contaminated by worm larvae. Hay and chaff is generally suitable.

If browse or fodder crop is cut from above half a metre height there should be no worm larvae as few larvae can wriggle up to above 20 cm.


Figure 6. Composting of manure and wasted hay in separate area. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 6. Composting of manure and wasted hay in separate area. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 7. Bamboo used to feed goats. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.
Figure 7. Bamboo used to feed goats. Source: Dr Sandra Baxendell.