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DIY goat poop worm analysis

Mashing up goat poop

As with our bees, I hate the idea of pumping chemicals into our goats unless I'm positive they have a problem with worms. The solution to this dilemma is what scientists euphemistically refer to as a fecal exam and what I call a goat poop analysis. Basically, you're looking for eggs of the parasitic worms that give your herd such a hard time, then you use the number of eggs to decide whether to deworm.

Preparing a goat fecal sample
"Okay, Anna. You just lost me," says the random reader. "How am I going to see microscopic worm eggs, let alone count them?"

Homestead microscopyWell, gentle reader, I'm glad you asked! It's pretty simple --- first you follow your goat around staring at their butt until they poop. Next, you gather three fresh pellets and mash them up in a solution of water saturated with epsom salts. Then you strain out the non-microscopic gunk using a clean rag and pour the remaining liquid into a test tube. Fill the tube to the brim with a bit more of your epsom-salt solution, place a cover slip on top so it's fully touching the liquid, wait 20 minutes, and the worm eggs should float to the surface and adhere to your cover slip. Then it's just a matter of examining the resulting slide under a microscope to see if you find any worm eggs.

(Yes, I glossed over a lot of factors in that paragraph. This website contains the most scientific and, at the same time, home-user friendly explanation I've run across.)

The biggest problem I've had with this experience so far is the obvious --- the watched goat never poops. The easiest way to get your goat to defecate on command is to wait until she stands up. The trouble is, Artemesia is such a people pleaser, she jumps to her feet as soon as I step out the door. So I did finally get some pellets Thursday....but they came from Abigail.

Goat poop under a microcscope

I figured I'd go ahead and try my hand at analysis anyway, even though Abigail's not the one I'm worried about. So I wasn't surprised that I didn't find anything I was sure were worm eggs. (This site has some good images of various goat intestinal parasites. But, basically, you're looking for ovals with circles inside.) Instead, I mostly found lots of debris, one colony of what I think is probably bacteria, and a few of what I think are probably plant cells that didn't get entirely digested.

Now I just need to watch Artemesia's butt a little longer and see what I find in her poop. In the meantime, I've increased her concentrates in case she's anemic because of growing kids instead of intestinal parasites. And I'm also taking the time to sit with her while she eats so Abigail can't bully our first freshener out of the last of her ration. Here's hoping by the time I catch some fresh pellets from our darling doeling, Artie will be in peek health and my anemia scare will be a thing of the past.



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Unless you're using distilled water, you might consider analysing a sample of your water as a baseline.

Otherwise how can you be sure that what you see comes from the goat poop?

Surely creek or well water has bacteria in it.

Comment by Roland_Smith Fri Mar 11 16:40:52 2016
Roland --- Excellent point! I just threw in the bacteria because I wanted a photo for the blog, though --- I'm not actually counting them. And the intestinal worm eggs should only be present in very, very small amounts in our creek water (if at all). They're only likely to be found in animal poop or in nearby soil.
Comment by anna Sat Mar 12 14:24:36 2016
Thanks for the picture of your setup. I had not realized until now that microscopes can be bought now with CCD's/LCD displays!. Last time I used one was in the 80's and always had trouble seeing detail on higher magnifications. Thanks again for bringing me to the 21st century!. Mind sharing the model of your setup?
Comment by pedro Wed Mar 23 10:37:10 2016

pedro --- Sorry to be a slowpoke about answering! I agree, the LCD display is awesome and really takes the pain and suffering out of microscopy.

This is the microscope we bought. We like it a lot, although if I was going to buy now I'd search around and see if there's one that magnifies a bit more. I don't need higher magnification for goat worm eggs, but it would be handy if you're looking at bacteria.

Comment by anna Thu Mar 24 18:51:29 2016
It makes me happy to know that you have a microscope on your homestead. :-)
Comment by Jake Fri Mar 25 02:47:45 2016