Fecal Egg Counts: Why & How to Do Your Own

While it’s a dirty job, testing your goat’s poo is the most effective way to keep them dewormed while saving money on medications and vet visits.

by Lisa Seger
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

I’m just going to start with this grenade of an opinion: If you are worming your goats without doing fecal egg counts or having them done by your vet, you are doing it wrong. (I’ll be awaiting your hate mail.)

Here’s the skinny: Aside from maybe a routine, post-kidding worming, you really shouldn’t be doing any other worming without actual data saying your goat needs to be wormed. Routine, unnecessary use of chemical wormers is the primary reason most wormers no longer work against barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) in goats in most American regions. Put simply, by overusing these important drugs, we have made generations of drug-resistant worms that can no longer be killed by the current roster of brands on the market. Do your own research about this—you don’t have to take my word for it.

To help combat resistance and ensure that you will have options when you need them, I highly recommend doing your own fecal egg counts. You can ask a vet to do this for you, but learning to do it yourself will ultimately save a ton of time and money, as well as make you a better herd manager. Another reason to DIY is that you can do post-worming counts to verify the efficacy of the drugs you’re using, at no additional cost once the initial equipment investment has been made.

So what do you need to do your fecal egg counts at home? There are a few ways to do it, but I am going to give you what I believe is the best/easiest/most reliable.

What You’ll Need

  • a microscope: Just purchase a basic school model that has at a 40x to 1000x magnification range. Ebay is a great place to find inexpensive used models. You can get one for about $40.
  • a Paracount EPG Fecal Analysis Kit: Listen to me on this. This kit is KEY. You can just buy a McMasters chambered slide (absolutely non-negotiable) and Google for instructions, but this kit vastly reduces the testing time and errors often made from improper sample prep. Get the kit! The kit actually comes with two full setups, so you can split the cost and the contents with a friend to save money. The basic kit is $50, and only $25 if you share with a friend.
  • fecal flotation solution: You can buy this commercially ($15 to $20 per gallon when purchased online) or make your own.
  • a textbook or chart with photographs of common goat parasite eggs: We use a textbook that a vet friend gave us, but there are many good charts available online. As with all things in life, Google is your friend here. Note that many of the eggs look fairly similar. With time and practice, you will get better at identifying them. Most often you will be looking for and seeing Haemonchus, the most concerning one in goats. You may also see coccidia oocytes, as well as other eggs that, if present in large numbers, will indicate a need to treat with their specific medicines.

Step 1: Collect Poop Samples

Collect fresh poop from the goat to be tested. If you are testing more than one, be sure to put them in separate baggies, labeled with each goat’s name. The tests work best when the sample is fresh and easily macerated.

Step 2: Test The Samples

Follow the instructions in your kit regarding the ratio of fecal matter to float solution, as well as how to draw the sample and place it into your chambered slide. Following the directions precisely is important to getting an accurate reading. You will always find some eggs. They key is to count them and know the actual eggs per gram to help make informed decisions on whether to medicate.

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Step 3: Talk To Your Vet About Medicating

I will not get into what specific egg counts indicate a need for administering deworming medications. This is a discussion you should have with your vet. The count can vary depending on the goat in question and the season. Keep notes on your fecal egg count tests and which goats you deworm.

Step 4: Retest New Samples

If you medicate, run a fecal egg count with fresh samples 10 to 12 days after administering the dewormer. This will let you know if your wormer is working.

When it comes to effectively managing parasites in your herd—no matter the size—knowledge is power. Assuming your vet charges $10 to $20 per fecal, the investment you make in being equipped to do your own will pay for itself in six to 10 tests. The biggest payoff, however, is in better, more informed management. Build your skills toolbox. It’s the best investment you can make in your herd.

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