It’s time for African stock farmers to get serious about making money out of their assets, before other role-players in the sector grab the goat by the horns, as it were.
Ultimately, if you farm livestock, you are growing out animals for the market; if you sell scrap animals, the chances are good, you will get scrap prices and a pretty scrappy reputation at the same time.
The farming principles are the same whatever the size of your flock – farm for excellence in your animals, farm to make money, and farm without excuses. Focus on condition to improve profitability in your flock. Productive stock must be in good condition or it can’t work for you.
If you’re not really on track with flock health and management, make a paradigm shift right now and start taking a proactive approach so that you are managing and acting to stop pathogen infections, before they destroy your profit margin.
EYES ON THE FLOCK
A simple start to tackling issues of condition in goats is to deal with worms. It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re checking your flock, but it’s scary what a debilitating effect gut parasites (worms) can have on animals. Given some common sense, a decent checking system and effective dewormers, farmers can treat worms and prevent significant economic losses.
The most destructive worm in sheep and goats (small ruminants) is the nasty nematode Haemonchus contortus (red stomach worm, barber pole worm or wire worm). The parasite cuts a tear in the gut lining and then feeds off the blood that flows from the tear. A heavy, continual load of these nematodes draws enough blood to cause severe anaemia (blood loss) and eventually, mortality.
Luckily, for the stockman, anaemia progresses in stages before infected animals die, which means he (or she) can check on the status of the flock, and dose target animals appropriately. Good early treatment means no mortality.
However, good cover does not mean blanket cover, the accepted practice of the past. The recommended method now is to scrutinise the animals, select the targets and then dose the targeted individuals.
The current global choice of only three active ingredient compounds makes it important for stock farmers to strategise and decrease parasitic resistance. Follow the dosing instructions carefully so that you do not underdose, which is another resistance builder.
USE ANTHELMINTICS WITH CARE
Change the dewormer on an annual basis, across the classes of compounds and not within one class. The three classes are: Benzamidizoles; Macrolides (Avermectin) and Levamisoles (Imidothiazoles).
Valbazen and Panacur are from the Benzamidizole group, Ivermectin, Dectomax and Cydectin are from the Avermectin group and Levasol and Tramisol are Levamisoles (Imidothiazoles).
Dewormers are a valuable resource and they are expensive. Animals are valuable too, so check the product to see which active ingredient you are using and keep records so that you know when to change the drug.
One significant advantage of keeping records is that you will soon learn who your more vulnerable animals are. Resistance to parasite infection is a heritable trait so it’s a good idea to cull animals that are repeatedly infected.
SCORING ANIMANLS FOR PARASITE LOADS
The Famacha system, designed by a group of South African vets, uses a chart that matches the colour of the eye membranes to levels of anaemia. It flags infected animals and helps farmers gauge the severity of the parasite load.
The greater the number of worms, the more anaemic the animal, the paler are the membranes.
Thus, on a scale of 1 – 5, a healthy red eye membrane colour means that the animal has a low infection or is nematode resistant (1), while at the opposite end of the scale (5) very pale membranes signal the need for immediate dosing.
Oral dosing is best and goats generally need a higher dose than sheep.
The 21 day life cycle of the wire worm (H. contortus) means the stockman has a chance to treat before things get too bad, as long as he keeps checking, using his Famacha scorecard, every two to three weeks. In the hot, wet season you may want to check your flock once a week.
Examine the eye membranes in natural light, rather than in shade or in artificial light, the Famacha chart advises.
To get a good look at the membranes and check the degree of anaemia, expose the lower eye by rolling the lid down over the eyeball and pushing down gently until the eyelashes curl up over your thumb. Then pull the lower eyelid down and you will see the mucous membranes. The whole bed of membranes must be scored, not just the inner surface of the lower eyelid.
To get a good idea of how the Famacha chart can help you and to see how to operate it, click on these links: