Goat farmers from Llanerfyl are taking part in a project aiming to look at how management changes can reduce parasite dosing in the animals.

Goat meat producers with low stocking rates who turn herds out to graze on long swards intermittently are reporting fewer worm challenges.

Four goat meat businesses in Wales have come together for a project that aims to inform a more effective parasite dosing regime to improve daily live weight gains and reduce time to slaughter.

If they can do this, it will help enable the sustainable development of meat goat production in Wales.

The four farmers run herds in mid and south Wales, farming 270 Boer meat goats between them.

Andy Menzies, who runs around 50 goats at Llanerfyl, says he has increased the efficiency of his worming strategy and, in so doing, reduced his costs.

“Utilising FEC and BCS has increased my knowledge of the Boer goat as a grazing meat producing animal,’’ he says.

They came together for a two-year European Innovation Partnership Wales project to gain more clarity around the correct parasite dose rate for goats.

Sheep and goats are both hosts to the same gastrointestinal parasites, but there is limited published information about the doses needed to treat the problems.

It is generally assumed that they need higher rates than sheep, but because goats metabolise toxins quicker than sheep, there is concern that this could create resistance in goat breeds.

The EIP project, which began a year ago, is establishing data using body condition scoring, regular weighing, composite worm egg counts and faecal egg counts to examine if there are existing resistance issues within the herds.

The four farms have different management practices.

Enhanced herd resilience is being recorded in the herds grazing longer sward length and in differentiated aged groups, says Kate Hovers, the veterinary surgeon working with the group.

“Where there is a combination of at least two of the following – low stocking, intermittent grazing or long sward length – herds are recording a significantly reduced worm challenge,’’ she said.

One of the group members is Meg McNamara, who farms in Pembrokeshire. She and her husband built up a herd of 250 Boer goats plus followers over four years before downsizing in late 2019 to concentrate on their family.

For Debbie Church, who farms 130 goats in a housed system with access to six acres of grazing at Fronrhydd in Pembrokeshire, the investigative testing and study of her management system had helped her to better understand the underlying cause and effect of the worm burden issue within her herd.

Sue Leyshon farms 19 does and sells all surplus youngstock as meat to the public through private sales and as burgers via a fast food outlet near Llangadog, Carmarthenshire.

“We are gaining knowledge as the project progresses and questioning how we farm our goats,” she said.