I’ve owned goats here and there throughout my life, and I’ve only recently fallen head-over-heels in love with them. In other words, I’m now committed to growing a healthy, beautiful, herd of Boer goats. So when goat lice showed up on my farm, I wanted to find a way to naturally treat goats for lice…if at all possible.
But here’s the thing…I make many mistakes when I add a new animal to my farm. Because no matter how much I read, nothing can hold a candle to real experience.
So when my goats got lice for the first time, I missed it. I didn’t notice until it was almost too late. And then the panic set in, phone calls were made, and way too much money was spent on trying to solve the problem.
Luckily, what I ended up doing worked, and my poor goats are on the upswing.
If you read my blog often, you’ll notice that I advocate for patience and tolerance for new homesteaders, and I ask the same from those who read my blog. Because my mistakes are honest mistakes, and if I can help others avoid them, then it’s worth sharing both successes and failures.
Ready to get the details?
How to Tell if Your Goats Have Lice (or mites)
External parasites are nastier than you may think. They itch, cause anemia, weight loss, and even death in goats.
So when those kiddos start scratching, and complaining, more than normal, you might have an infestation on your hands.
Some of these parasites are harder to see than others, but if you look for the telltale signs, you’ll know what you’re dealing with.
Watch for excessive itching, rubbing, and moaning while itching…this will probably be your first sign of an infestation.
Other signs of mites and lice on goats:
- Loss of fur
- Coarse fur
- Dirty-looking fur
- Loss of condition
- Lack of appetite
- Pale lips and inner eyelids
This photo shows a closeup of the infestation my dapple doe, Dolly, had this winter.
As you can see, you have to get real close to notice those little buggers, but they are the small redish specks deep within the fur. If you look close enough, you can see them moving. Yuck.
It’s safe to assume that if one goat has them, they all do…so please treat your entire herd at once.
Natural First, I Always Say
I am an au naturale type of girl. I mean, for years I’ve written about animal husbandry for websites like Morning Chores and Townline Hatchery. And through the years of content marketing research, I’ve come to learn that many of the recommendations for animal care are based on quick fixes, vet visits, and chemicals.
Now, if there’s an emergency, yes, the animal probably needs the vet. But my first plan of action is always watchful waiting and natural care when possible.
And I’ve had a few remedies in my back pocket for a long time when it comes to treating external parasites.
So, here are my go-to (lets-try-this-first) natural options:
1. Diatomaceous Earth (always food grade)
Diatomaceous Earth is all the rave amongst homesteaders, as a parasite control. And there’s a reason for that.
According to Research Gate, diatomaceous earth is the “skeletal remains of single-celled algae or diatoms from fresh-water or marine sedimentary deposits.”
When touching DE, you’ll notice that it’s extremely fine and soft. Under a microscope, it has razor-sharp edges. It is thought that those small sharp edges gouge and cut open parasites when used internally and externally.
I have not found scientific evidence that proves that Diatomaceous earth will kill internal parasites, but from my own experience using it with my poultry, I’ve found it to be a very effective drying agent, which in turn, appears to kill external parasites.
(Remember, I’m not a vet…so I’m only sharing my own observations. Take it all with a grain of salt).
Anyway, here’s the thing about DE…since it’s a drying agent, you’re gonna want to wear gloves.
Just get it on your hands and you’ll need to lather up with Udder Cream for at least a week before your hands are back to their regular barn-handy gruffness. (my hands are always chapped, by the way, so no judgment here…but I digress).
So please be careful when you dust your goats with diatomaceous earth as it will dry out the fleas, mites, and everything else it touches.
I found the DE to work well for lice it came into direct contact with. However, the underside of my goats, and in their nooks and crannies, remained an active hideout for the parasites. So…if you know you can get every nook and cranny, and you can keep it out of your goats’ lungs…go for it.
Tip: Keep your goats outdoors when treating with DE. Furthermore, remove and dust bedding areas to kill those pesky mites that are hiding out in the bedding.
Please exercise caution when using DE because it is extremely dusty and very bad for any living creature’s lungs (including yours). I’m asthmatic so I always wear a mask when applying DE to my critters.
Using Essential Oils to Treat Goats for Lice Naturally
Once I realized the DE would only take me so far, and I didn’t want to dry my goats’ skin out any further, I moved on to my next tool…essential oils.
I always have a kit of my favorite essential oils on hand, because to be honest, there’s only a handful that I’m always using. (and the ones I keep on hand usually do one heck of a job).
I mixed up a solution that killed lice on contact. Seriously, I sprayed it on them, and they were donezo. The problem was that I would have had to hit every single mite to be completely sure they were all dead.
But, that’s not to say it wouldn’t work in the early stages of an infestation, when there aren’t as many parasites.
Here’s what I used:
I mixed equal parts Lavender, Peppermint, Purification, Cedarwood (about 10 drops each) in an amber spray bottle and filled the rest of the bottle with witch hazel.
I was shocked at how well this worked, AND it conditioned their dried-out skin.
Now, I don’t know how true this is, but I’ve read a few books that say animals “know” if they need an essential oil to help them, They will show interest, sniff, and remain near the oil rather than run away from the smell.
Each of my infested goats followed me around like puppy dogs. Again, not sure if there’s any real truth to that, but I’m not above getting a little woo woo about things, especially oils.
Whenever possible, I will opt for either of these two non-chemical approaches.
Unfortunately, my goats had such a severe infestation that I needed to take things a step further with a chemical remedy. But, in the future, I will be using essential oils as a maintenance protocol for external parasites in my goats.
A Not-so-Natural Treatment for Goats with Lice
While I saw results with the natural remedies, they did not 100% clear my goats of their itchy tag-alongs. So, in this situation, I did what I had to do to save my goats.
If you also end up using this method, I recommend using 24cc per 100 lbs and then repeating the treatment in 3 weeks to prevent reinfestation.
Each of the above worked in its own way, but the fact is, my goats were so infested that I needed the Permectrin to kick out the nasty.
In the future, my plan is to use my essential oils for lice and mites on my herd before things get ugly. That’s why proper, regular, maintenance is important for new goatherds…lesson learned.