You've asked the question of the hour for goat owners! I have dwarf nigerians and have been doing research and reading on this topic. I have a lot of info to share. Hope I don't bore you to death!!
Probably the most important thing you can do to improve control of internal parasites is improve the health of your goats through mineral supplementation. Animals with sufficient minerals in their tissues, copper in particular, are not good hosts for internal parasites and goats have higher mineral requirements that any other typical farm animal. If you don't deal with the mineral deficiencies, you will be constantly having to deal heavy worm loads. And as you know, in Texas lots of goat owners have significant problems with worms and use lots of chemical wormers.
Since most of our agricultural lands in the U.S. are copper deficient (and low in lots of other important minerals as well), the hay and grain based feeds grown on these soils are also likely to be deficient. So you will need to chose feed that has ample additional copper and offer a good mineral mix free choice. If you are grazing on your own pasture or making your own hay, you may also want to do some soil tests and remineralize your soil. Sound familiar?
If you use a pellet or some other premixed feed, make sure it contains significant copper. If your feed (or mineral) is labeled for sheep and goats, it will not have enough copper since copper at the levels required for goats is toxic to sheep. Look for a feed that is formulated just for goats and has 18 to 20 ppm copper.
Make sure you have a good mineral mix available free choice. There are some good mineral mixes designed for goats. Some are even formulated for goats on alfalfa vs grass hay. I am using a mineral mix I make up from kelp meal (~60%), Redmond Conditioner (~30%), dairy yeast (~5%) and flax seed (~5%). The goats love it big time. They are just as interested in the minerals as they are in their feed. If you don't have Redmond Conditioner, give them straight kelp meal free choice and add the other items as they are available. The dairy yeast (Diamond V brand is sold at Wells Brothers in Plano) is a good source of vitamins and probiotics that help the rumen. It also makes the mineral mix more palletable.
While I use DE as part of my program (I mix it into their feed daily), I don't count on it to totally control worms. I think it's main benefit comes after it is eliminated by the animal. It's presence in the manure probably helps to kill the eggs and worms once they hatch, reducing reinfestation. It seems to help reduce worm loads, but I'm not convinced it is the complete solution.
A related approach is rotational grazing. By rotating where the animals are contained, you can reduce their exposure to worms. However, my most recent reading suggests that to be effective, your goats will have to stay off the pasture for at least 3 months to reduce the likelyhood that your animals will be reinfested when they graze.
You can also use herbal wormers instead of chemical wormers. Herbs work differently from chemicals. Instead of applying when you see evidence of worms, you give herbal wormers on a weekly basis throughout the year. I use the herbal womer sold by Molly's Herbals (see fiascofarm website). I can't assure you on the success of herbal wormers. There are a lot of goat owners who say they are completely ineffective and that I'm nuts for using them. But then again, these owners generally do not raise their animals naturally and often rely on various types of alleopathic medicines and chemicals to keep their animals healthy. (Kind of an oxymoron, isn't it?
There are a couple of commercially available herbal wormers. Check out these websites.
You can also make your own. There are lots of herbs that are natural dewormers. But herbs, even though they are natural, can have side effects and may be toxic under certain circumstances. So if you decide to make your own, be sure to do some reading. One well known book is "Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable" by Juliette De Bairacli-Levy. You can order it through Amazon.
I recently got a fantastic book (thanks Michael!) by Pat Colby called "Natural Goat Care". It covers a broad range of goat care topics and I highly recommend it . It's available through Acres USA (www.acresusa.com
Of course, the bottom line is the health of your animals. You can (and should) have fecal samples analyzed periodically to assess the extent of parasites present (FYI, fecal samples only contain eggs, not the worms). You can have your vet do this or do it yourself. That is what I'm doing. It's not that I enjoy playing with my goats poop
, but I want to be able to see whether the approaches I'm taking are helping to reduce worms.
If you have your vet do it, make sure he/she tells you specifically what types of worm eggs are present, not just that your goat needs to be wormed. You might also want to know how many of each type was observed. If you end up using chemical wormers, you will need this information to select one that will work.
I recently asked "an expert" (Sue Reith was the first person to teach goat owners how to analyze fecal samples themselves) how many "eggs" is too many. She said that it is all relative (my DH's favorite saying)! To assess whether a worm load is serious, you have to combine the data you get from the fecal sample with the data you get by observing your goats. In other words, is your goat exhibiting signs that are symptomatic of worm infestation? Things such as poor coat, poor appetite, under weight, coughing, bad skin condition, diarhea, etc. If so and your goat's fecies contain eggs from parasites that are associated with these problems, you should treat for worms. Even if the parasite egg count is low.
So, Banot, is this more than you ever wanted to know???? (Yikes!) Sorry to go on at such length, but internal parasites are the thing most likely to drive an otherwise "organic" goat person to use chemicals. I'm passionate about finding alternatives.
Best luck with your goats! Let me know if you have questions.