Picture Perfect Parasite

I’ve been taking a bit of time to go through recent trail cam footage and have a lot of black tail deer behavior. Something particular I’ve noticed is how the deer are looking a little itchy. I’d like to say it’s because of the warmer spring weather starting to come, signaling many animals to shed. My goats have been dropping their winter coats, and spending a lot of time rubbing up against trees to comb out the itchy loose hair. However, the deer behavior is different; instead of rubbing against things, I see specific biting and scraping on the hind end. The itching is concentrated in only a few places, and the “hot spots” are visible, taking more hair than necessary in a shed.

This leads me to think the deer are struggling with the warm up as an activation of parasites. Mites and lice feed externally on deer, while worms prefer to live inside the animal. Both cause irritation on the body, but the worms are most active in the gut and butt, the two places this deer is rubbing. In nature, many young deer can die of parasite infestations, but enough make it through to adult hood with enough immunity built up to handle a small colony within them. Still, I bet by summer, this doe will have a bare hind end and look mangy. What’s also alarming, is the fact that many of these parasites on the deer, can be picked up by the goat at Leafhopper Farm! This is indeed a reason to take note of what the deer are feeling, as a cue to treat and manage parasites in the farm herd.

I used to pay a lot of money to my vet for a fecal sample, which should be done on multiple animals, leading to continued costs seasonally to maintain herd health. Well, with the gift of a microscope from my loving partner, and the internet to explain, I am proud to say I’ve started doing my own in house fecal exams and the results are thrilling!


This is a look at my goat Bran’s fecal matter. It’s some poop mixed in saline solution (epson salt in water) and dripped onto a slide for observation. You can see a lung worm and some potential tapeworms, but the picture is hard to take down a microscope.


There are also some nematodes in this fecal sample, which are no surprise either. Goats eat a lot off the ground, so they pick things up, as do all grazing animals, and meat eaters, and us. Yes, we too carry worms, though I will not be doing a fecal sample on myself anytime soon. 😉 With the help of this microscope, I can actually see what’s eating my animals. The parasite count in a goat determines how bad the infestation, and subsequent damage to the internal system of a goat will be. All my goats are still up and running seemingly well, but parasites are tricky, and may lay dormant in a host animal for months, or even years. They will grow to infest an animal when it’s immune system is weak, like a doe after she has given birth, hence dosing the herd now, after kidding. The kids will need to be observed too, because the young are vulnerable, and mothers can pass infestations on to their offspring through milk, and in utero through the blood.


The lung worms were my suspect, and I’m glad to know that’s what’s happening; an easily treatable infestation. My goats are always in need of a worming in the spring, things warm up encouraging the world of microscopic animal life to reanimate . Usually I use garlic, but in this case, the lung worm requires something more potent, and so, I bought a chemical wormer for full treatment; after 6 years of holistic management. Because The Pacific Northwest is so damp and warm a lot of the year, parasites can hit hard, and kill animals if you are not observing and taking the proper precautions.

For the deer, nature decides, for the goats, my fecal exam tells me what the extent of infestation is, because goats always have some worms in their system. Then I know when there is a high count of worms, and it’s time to start treating. This is usually in the spring, and you can bet that if your goats are eating anything off the ground, they have picked up some friends, who won’t be so friendly once they establish a colony in or on the body of their host.



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