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DOING YOUR OWN FECALS IS EASY

By: Suzanne W. Gasparotto
Web Site:Onion Creek Ranch
About the Author

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Parasites are the biggest health management problem facing goat producers. Worms and coccidia kill more goats than all other illnesses combined. It is therefore surprising to learn that many goat raisers do not have an established program of regular, systematic microscopic examination of goat "pills" (feces) for worms and coccidia.

Doing fecals is easy. All you need are a few supplies and some goat poop! There are several companies that sell used reconditioned microscopes over the Internet. I purchased an American Optical microscope (4 x 10 x 40 power with three lenses) and an extra lightbulb from Associated Microscope for $150. A six-month mechanical warranty came with it and shipping from the East Coast to Texas via UPS was $9.00. This microscope is about 20 years old and was owned by a university. If purchased new today, it would cost close to $1,000.
Tim at Associated Microscope can be reached toll-free at 1-800-476-3893.

Additional supplies needed are : few test tubes (12 cc syringe covers will suffice), a handful of plain glass slides (gridded slides are not necessary), slide covers (optional), fecal floatation solution (sodium nitrate can be obtained from a vet), a stirrer (fecal loop or popsicle stick), a block of styrofoam (hollowed out to hold the test tubes upright), and a chart depicting worm eggs and coccidia oocysts.

Now for the "fun" part. Catch the goat whose "pills" you want to check and collect fresh feces, either by using a fecal loop to gather the substance from inside the goat, or stand around for a few minutes until the goat drops some "pills." Given their fast metabolism, goats defecate often. Do NOT use old, dried-out "pills" when doing fecal examinations. Old pill bottles or the vials in which 35 mm film is packaged are good for collection and labelling. For goats with diarrhea who require fecal testing, put on a pair of disposable gloves and obtain a fecal sample by inserting your gloved fingers into the goat.

Put three of four fresh goat "pills" into the test tube and pour just enough floatation solution into the tube to cover them completely. Mash them up with the stirrer. Then fill the tube with more floatation solution to the point that it is slightly overflowing. Place a glass slide over the top, letting a suction form with the solution against the slide, and place the slide in your styrofoam test-tube holder. Wait FIVE minutes to allow the eggs to float to the top and adhere to the slide.

Carefully remove the slide from the top of the test tube and place the slide into the microscope's viewing holder. (Dispose of the contents of the test tube.) Using the chart of worm eggs and coccidia oocysts, slowly adjust the lens to suit your eyes and move the slide from side to side and up and down until you find worm eggs and/or coccidia oocysts. The main worm problem in goats is Haemonchus contortus; however, some areas are subject to liver fluke infestation. The funny-looking darkened zeroes with a small white pinhole center are water bubbles. Realize that since the matter has not be strained, there will be debris in the mixture, so ignore it and look only for the parasite eggs as your chart depicts them.

Almost every goat has a few worms and even some coccidia oocysts to help stimulate its immune system. But if you find more than a couple of eggs or oocysts in your fecal sample, take appropriate corrective measures and treat the goat accordingly.

There are far more sophisticated methods for doing fecals, but the procedure outlined above will suffice quite well for the average goat producer. It will tell you what you need to know in order to keep your herd worm- and coccidia-free.

The photos below are courtesy of Dr. D. Bowman, NYSCVM, Ithaca NY.
Thank you , Dr. Bowman!

Coccidia Strongyles enlarged and in a group Strongyles enlarged and in a group Eggs

About the author: Suzanne W. Gasparotto owns and operates Onion Creek Ranch in Buda, Texas, the official home of the Onion Creek RanchTM. She currently writes articles for several Goat related publications and is a highly respected individual in the industry. Suzanne also runs and maintains ChevonTalk - a discussion list dealing with all aspects of raising goats. We recommend this important and informative list to anyone involved in the husbandry of goats.

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