The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Biting lice on goats

Goat biting lice

The first step in dealing with Aurora's biters was to figure out what exactly is chewing on her. After combing through her hair in bright sunlight for a while, I finally discovered small, slow-moving brown spots. Clipping a bit of hair plus biter then photographing and zooming way in on the resultant image resulted in a diagnosis --- biting lice (Bovicola caprae/Damalinia caprae).

Alert goat

Various natural treatment methods exist for lice on goats, but all either seem too invasive to me or have proven ineffective. On the ineffective front, diatomaceous earth did absolutely nothing to hinder Aurora's lice despite brushing gobs of it into her hair for multiple days running. On the invasive front, soaking your animal in any liquid (including water) and keeping her wet for six hours will kill nearly all lice...good luck with that. Shearing is also effective at removing 30 to 50% of lice, with most of the rest naturally dying as they're exposed to weather...but we have a cold spell coming up and I don't think our goats would enjoy being sheared.

Resting goat

So, chemicals it is. The internet is mixed on mainstream methods of treatment, but one extension agent site says that the ivermectin or moxidectin dosages that work on sucking lice aren't effective against biting lice. Instead, they recommend treating with permethrin, which comes in various brand names and application patterns. Of these, Ultra Boss is labelled for use on goats as a pour-on (meaning you can apply in a strip down the animal's back like cat or dog flea meds). That seems the least invasive, so we're going to give it a shot --- treat once, then wait two weeks and treat again. Fingers crossed poor Aurora will stop stamping and scratching in the near future.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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There are natural oil combos that will help prevent and kill lice Peppermint; Lavender; Rosemary & Melaleuca -Young Living Essential Oils You might have some of them.

Comment by Jayne Wead Tue Apr 4 08:37:20 2017
I just want to support your choice, and your ethic. Having animals requires their owners to make choices to care for them and protect them. Avoiding things which might be overkill and harmful is wise. But, once there is a problem - you've diagnosed it on the nose! - then action is required to assure the comfort and health of the animal you are responsible for. So...pick the least aggressive but most successful thing to get the job done, first. Then, ramp up the power as the need presents itself. Once the animal is cared for, then work on prevention of future issues as possible. For me, and I think for you, too, denying an animal health and comfort in order to support a self-imposed ethic which might limit choices of meds is simply being harmful to our responsibilities to the animals we have chosen to keep and care for. Fix the problems presented as best we can, then work to prevent the problems in the future. That is responsible. You're doing great! Having animals is hard - you know that better than most. I'm crying for your losses still. But you're doing it right. Best regards.
Comment by Tim Inman Tue Apr 4 09:33:36 2017
Our vet told us to treat all the goats and sheep with the insecticide, so they didn't just pass the lice back and forth. Su
Comment by Su Chism Tue Apr 4 16:05:29 2017

Thanks to everyone for your feedback!

Su --- That's really good advice. Actually, I'm 99% sure that Edgar is the one who brought the lice to our farm in the first place, so I was definitely going to treat him as well. But it's good to know that whole-herd treatment is the established procedure even if he had seemed lice-free! What kind of insecticide did you treat with? Did it wipe out the infestation?

Comment by anna Tue Apr 4 16:23:16 2017
We just had lice run through our kids. Can those goat lice infest humans too?
Comment by Kathleen Wed Apr 5 11:39:20 2017
Kathleen --- That's an excellent question. Luckily, lice are relatively species specific. These same lice will parasitize goats and sheep, but they won't hop to humans. Phew! :-) (And I hope your kids are doing better!)
Comment by anna Thu Apr 6 18:31:23 2017

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