A quick story first (you can scroll down to "How" if you want to jump right in and learn what to do without all the extra info)...
As we stepped up to the counter at our vets office we told the lady that we had brought a fecal sample in to have checked for any parasites. She asked a couple of quick questions, and then took the fecal into the back room and passed it off to the vet. She came out a moment later and said that it was just going to take 15 minutes if we wanted to wait, or they could call us later that day with the results. We were in no hurry so we opted to wait. A few minutes later the vet came out from the back and made small talk with us while we waited for the fecal exam process to start working so that he could look at it under the microscope. After a minute or two, he asked why we wanted to have the fecal checked. I told him I like to have fecal exams done from time to time, just to make sure that there were no parasite problems getting started. He nodded and asked what dewormer we were using and proceeded to name off a number of different chemical dewormers in quick succession with a questioning look. Dad and I tried not to give each other 'a look' when he asked this. We knew the question was coming, but we still always dread the question, knowing that they always have the same negative answer about natural methods. Dad just said casually that we use something more natural. The vet gave a slight smirk and said that "Everyone is always trying this natural stuff like it is the answer to parasite control, but it never works. You need to get started on a chemical program immediately, it just doesn't work to use anything natural." We just nodded respectfully, and said maybe so. I decided not to mention that we have used the same natural product for 5 years without a single problem. After that, he went into the back room again to check the fecal. After about 5 minutes he came back, kinda slowly, with a puzzled look on his face and said that "there werezero parasites." He asked more specifically what kind of natural wormer we were using, and we just said it was an herbal product we get online. He scratched his head and said "Well, I have to say, I am impressed by how clear the fecal was, I thought for sure I was going to see a serious parasite problem..." and then quickly added "but it isn't going to keep working for long, you need to start something stronger right away or this is going to get out of hand before you realize what is happening. The natural wormers never keep working for long." After that, he recommended several chemical products that we transition to instead and insisted we start immediately.
I run into this same thing every time I take a fecal in for a checkup (which I do once or twice per year to monitor my program). They always say the same thing and always come back with the same answer after doing the exam.
I am not quite sure why, but vets around here seem to think that parasites are about the only cause of illness and that chemical wormers are absolutely the answer with no room for any other method. I can't help but wonder if it is because parasites really are the main issue they deal with and that in truth the chemical wormers they are having their clients use are what is causing the parasite resistance problems that become such a challenge to treat...
This was several years ago that this happened at the vet's office and just last summer I learned that this vet lost one of his own goats to parasite overload. I am not trying to make a case for herbal wormers to be the ultimate answer that will work every time, they won't, but chemical wormers aren't necessarily the best for every farm, every situation, and most importantly for every animal. Personally, I would much rather have the long term herbal benefits for the continued health of my animals that I have gained with natural products.
Parasites and chemicals...
The thing with chemical wormers is that they are designed to poison the parasite. Which means they are also poisoning your creature, incrementally, but little by little it does add up. Toxins from synthetic chemicals are not easily excreted, so every time you deworm your herd you are adding to the toxic load on your creature. Since it is such a small amount each time you wouldn't recognize the issue building, but these toxins are accumulating in the kidneys and liver and slowly degenerating your creature's vitality from the inside out. What's more, if you are consuming the milk, you are also picking up the synthetic residues and carrying them into your own system. Once the normal liver and kidney functions are impaired, the toxins often start backing up into other systems. I often see the lungs and skin being affected by one problem or another, but not always. The thing with toxins is that they usually settle in that creature's weakest organ or body system, the weakest organ/body system generally being what they were genetically inclined to. Of course, chemical dewormers are only one way that toxins get into your goats. There are many, such as; sprayed hay or grain crops, vaccines, well water if you live around highly cultivated agricultural land, polluted air from manufacturing, heavy metals from the atmosphere, the body itself even produces its own toxins. But, there are options to avoid the synthetic chemicals which come in standard dewormers that won't contribute to the long term degeneration of your herds health (read below to learn what you can be doing about these other toxin exposures). Which is why I put this article together so that you can move ahead with confidence if you choose to go a natural route.
What I think most most vets may not understand (maybe aren't taught?), is that a high quality, whole herb blend of anti-parasitic herbs is so complex in its naturally occurring parasite disrupting compounds that it is virtually impossible for the parasites to build an immunity to. Unlike the chemical versions that just have 1-3 active compounds to kill parasites, which makes it fairly easy for a parasite to immunize to. A single herb can have a dozen or more of these compounds. Combine several of these kinds of herbs in a blend, and you have a powerful tool to fight parasites. However, you MUST be consistent with your program. Herbs do work, but not if you are inconsistent, or don't use enough herb frequently enough. This is probably the #1 reason people come to the conclusion that herbs don't work. This is also the #1 place that people drop out from trying to do things naturally at all. It is a commitment...a commitment that many aren't willing to make or can accommodate around a busy schedule. Instead they choose the short term gain of chemical dewormers for convenience, which I certainly can't blame them for; we all have busy lives, but at the end of the day I personally want to know that I have done my best for all my creatures and their long term health/well being. Feel free to choose whatever route you believe is best for you and your farm. I put this article together simply to share my experience, and offer an alternative to conventional systems and encouragement to those who want to seek out a more holistic approach!
I HIGHLY recommend DWA and GI Soother from Fir Meadows! These 2 products are excellent and are the only dewormer I have ever needed. That doesn't mean I can say for sure it will never fail, but after 7 years I am not going to try to change something that has worked without a single parasite outbreak in any of my herd members. Considering the size of my herd, currently at around 60 head, I feel confident in my approach. The numbers really do speak to the effectiveness of these products.
You also need a drench gun, a 20cc/ml gun works well with Nigerians. Alternatively, you can make these herb balls that most goats will gobble right up. For me, drenching is faster and easier, but if you are more comfortable with the herb balls you can use those instead. *When we just had a few goats, herb balls were very effective and efficient, but as our herd grew, it became a matter of efficiency to use a drench instead. Another important point I want to make though is that if you are not familiar or have experience with drenching, use caution, drench gun placement in the mouth is critical not to cause your goats or any other livestock to aspirate the liquid into their lungs.
Dosing amount and frequency is the #1 key to natural dewormers, but it is heavily dependent on your climate, which is a common reason natural dewormers don't work at times since there is no one size fits all.
For one of my 70# Nigerians, I will use a 1/4tsp. of each product, but if I had a problem with parasites already established, I would give as much as 1tsp. of each. For maintenance, I will deworm the herd 1x per week. Here in KS where we often have big temperature swings but only moderate rainfall (about 27 inches) in most years. If you lived somewhere prone to lots of rainfall and parasites are known to be a struggle then you may need to consider 2x week dosing, at least for the herd members that are more susceptible.
For dam raised kids, I don't deworm them unless I feel they need it because they are getting the benefits of the dewormer through their dam's milk.
Anytime a goat goes through a stressful period (eg. traveling, weaning, birthing, in rut, joining a new farm) I will bump up that dose of herbs to make sure parasites don't take advantage of the lowered immune system response during seasons of stress.
Sometimes after a doe gives birth, I will put her through a 5 day system cleanse by using double the recommended amount 2x per day, for 5 consecutive days. This wouldn't be a bad idea to do on your whole herd once in a while to really blast out any parasite issues and help your goat's immune system reset.
Reasons natural wormers have maybe not worked well for you...
Sometimes you may run into animals that the herbal products don't seem to be working for. I want to reemphasize the importance of consistency, this is the biggest reason people decide that herbs don't work, but there are others.
The next most common is dosage amount and schedule, especially with dewormers because parasite problems vary tremendously from one region to the next. So, don't necessarily stick to the amounts I told you either; use it as a starting point and if you start running into issues then increase the dose of herbs and possibly consider 2x week dosing at least on those animals that struggle more.
Don't necessarily rely solely on the packaging to direct you either. Many times, (especially in human supplements) the dosage amount that a herbalist can put on their packaging is heavily monitored by the FDA, to the point it can be fairly useless in a serious situation. I would encourage you in any situation when giving herbal support to trust your own judgement and consider closely the condition of the individual animal.
You can of course overdose anything. Thankfully, with most herbs the only concern would be an acidosis outbreak, which can still be life threatening, but you are more likely to die of liver failure from over the counter pain relievers than overdose an herb to that point. All I am saying is for you to use wisdom, and you will do just fine. Generally, I won't start off at a dose that is triple and quadruple the recommended amount right out of the gate unless it's an emergency. Usually, I work up to it over the course of a day or two so that I don't get a GI upset going from to much of a new thing.
Another problem occasionally is quality of the herbs you are using. I have never had an issue with the Fir Meadow products, but if you use products from other manufactures then you may want to watch out for this one. When you open a bag of herbs it should have a strong smell, many times the GI Soother from Fir Meadows will make me start sneezing just when I open the bag because of the hot herbs inside. This is a good sign! Make sure that your herbs are not getting too old, I generally don't like using anything over 3 years old.
One last important point to consider with any holistic program is toxin load. Many parasites are actually feeding on the toxins in your creature's GI tract and bloodstream. At the very least, they LOVE to go after an animal that has a weak immune system from toxin overload. If you have a goat who just seems to struggle more than the rest with parasites, I would consider doing a good system cleanse on that one. I am currently working on this article so stay tuned.
Of course, per the FDA, I have to add a disclaimer to this since I am not a medical professional. *These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.