When the veterinary feed directive took effect some years ago, it made the conventional coccidiosis preventive we used available only by vet prescription. “No problem,” I thought, because I’d always wanted to find a natural coccidiosis prevention protocol for my goats and this was a perfect nudge in that direction. Sometimes those things we feel are harmful can lead to blessings we’d never have been able to attain otherwise.
Now, in 2022, we’ve been using a combination of herbal remedies for several years and I feel the results have been consistent enough to be able to share my protocol with you. You can use the treatment protocol at the end of the article for active cases or any other significant digestive upset that does not resolve within a day.
Natural Coccidiosis Prevention for Goats: Oregano
Hands down, number one, the big winner for coccidiosis prevention is oregano essential oil. I’ll go into details in other posts about its numerous benefits that give it the #1 spot in my goat medicine chest, but for now let’s focus on coccidiosis.
My initial research into oregano essential oil led me to studies done on oregano as a coccidiostat in chickens. Here’s one combining garlic and oregano, never a bad idea:
In conclusion, the combined supplementation of oregano and garlic essential oils had a potent anticoccidial effect in vitro and a growth-promoting effect in broilers reared in the absence of anticoccidial drugs.
And this one, which is worth the short read of the abstract to see how oregano stacked up against other methods:
It could be concluded that supplementation of oregano oil at the dose of 500 ppm in diet may have beneficial effect on prevention of coccidiosis in broilers.
While both of these studies looked at chickens, it gave me hope that the underlying mechanics would be the same on goat coccidiosis so I began using it in conjunction with digestive supporting herbs as a treatment whenever a suspected case presented itself.
There are some considerations before beginning to use oregano essential oil though, so let’s look at those before we move on.
Safety Considerations When Using Oregano Essential Oil for Coccidiosis
Oregano Has an Antibiotic Action
First, it is important to understand that while it is entirely herbal, oregano essential oil is a powerful antibiotic and as such, will have a negative impact on your goat’s gut health, especially if used indiscriminately. That is why coccidiosis is the only condition I will use oregano as a preventive for rather than treating in an acute situation. We have a great gift in oregano, but we have an even greater responsibility to use it carefully. When using as a preventive, I use a small dose for no longer than 5 days and there is only one time in a kid’s life I will use it this way: at weaning. When treating an acute case (an active overgrowth), I use it for 2 days past last symptoms and then stop. Never use for more than a week in this scenario.
Oregano Can Burn Tissues
Oregano is a sharp essential oil. If you put it undiluted anywhere in or on the body, you will cause burns and potentially blisters. It must always be diluted to a minimum of 2ml liquid per drop of essential oil for oral use. For kids, you will probably want to dilute further, but be mindful of adding too much liquid to the stomach of a sick kid, so aim for no more than 3-4ml per dose.
Oregano is Contra-Indicated for Pregnancy
In one study, large doses of oregano essential oil caused embryonic cell death in mice. As a result, oregano is considered not safe for use during pregnancy. Here’s a summary discussing studies of several essential oils and pregnancy. I’ve expanded on that topic in an article here.
Natural Coccidiosis Prevention for Goats: Herbs
I believe oregano on its own can be effective at both treating and preventing coccidiosis and I’ll go into detail later on dosage, but oregano combined with digestive supporting herbs is an excellent remedy for any serious digestive issue. Herbs alone are highly effective for nearly every digestive upset, but I always add oregano for any case of coccidiosis.
Herbs For Digestive Ailments in Goats
There are many herbs, particularly those in the “spicy” category, that can help with digestive ailments. I can’t recommend Fir Meadow’s GI Soother enough as a ready to use blend and would suggest starting with this if you’re just getting into herbs. (Not an affiliate link.) According to the Fir Meadow website, the ingredients in this blend are:
Cayenne pepper fruit, Cinnamon bark, Clove bud, Ginger root, Mullein leaf, Slippery Elm bark, Turmeric root.
I like to add nettle powder to mine. We wild forage our nettle and I add it to nearly every herbal mixture for its highly nutritive and enhancing properties. Take a look around your own place and you’ll likely find an herb that can help increase the health of your goats.
Generally speaking, herbs are more forgiving than essential oils because they contain the whole plant and are not highly concentrated. My homemade mixture of digestive support herbs is the first step when we start seeing cases of diarrhea in kids.
I will take 1/4C-1/2C of this digestive herb mix and mix it into approximately one pound of kelp. I put this alongside but not mixed into the minerals of both adult and kid goats in the wet of spring. I remember treating an active case of diarrhea in a kid one year using oregano + herbs and behind him was a line to the herb feeder where all the kids were taking turns self medicating. When we honor the innate wisdom of the goat, they can make the right choices for their own health.
Natural Coccidiosis Prevention for Goats: Dosages
I don’t routinely try to prevent any illness in goats, trusting in a holistic, nutrition based approach. Coccidiosis is the one exception to this and only for kids who are leaving to new homes. The stress of weaning and moving at such a susceptible age can be enough to create a coccidia overgrowth, the last thing a moving goat and new goat owners need to be battling. So in only this scenario, I will preemptively dose oregano. Note: All doses mentioned here are oral using either the dropper or a needle-less syringe.
I begin by slow or heat infusing the above digestive herbs in olive oil. I strain this and add 1 drop of oregano essential oil for every 2ml of herbal oil. I send a bottle of this home with every goat kid buyer to be dosed at one dropper (about 1ml) once per day for 5 days; twice per day if symptoms present and then until 2 days past last symptom. (I sell the finished, bottled product here as well if you want it premade.)
Instead of infused oil, you can use the digestive herb blend dosed at the rate on the package from Fir Meadow. If you’re using your own herbs, do about 1/8 tsp per young Nigerian kid or 1/4 tsp per weaning Nigerian kid; double those doses for standards. When using dried herbs, you’ll need more liquid to dilute your oregano because it will be too thick otherwise, but try to aim for no more than 4-5ml total in a dose.
Natural Coccidiosis Treatment for Goats: Dosages
If you have an acute situation, treat with oregano essential oil and the digestive supporting herbs together as follows:
On days kid has diarrhea, treat at 8a, 12p, 4p, 8p with 1ml of the above infused oil/oregano essential oil mixture or 1/8-1/4 tsp digestive herbs with .5 drop* oregano essential oil in 4-5ml liquid.
*To get .5 drop of oil for your dose, draw up 2ml of liquid, squirt it into a mixing cup, add 1 drop of oregano essential oil, blend well and draw back up 1ml of the resulting mixture. You now have another dose for later.
The day after kid stops having diarrhea, treat at 8a, 2p, 8p with the same dosages as above.
Two days after kid stops having diarrhea, treat at 8a, 8p with the same dosages as above.
As long as stool has remained solid in those two days, you may now cease treatment, though you could continue to add herbs to kelp if you’d like to. I like that method because it ensures everyone who needs it can get some of the herbs.
If you don’t have any of the herbs, use just the oregano in a diluting liquid. It will work on its own but is amplified with the power of the herbs alongside it. If you have just the herbs but not oregano essential oil, get some oregano but in the meantime dose with herbs 6 times per day on days with diarrhea.
And that’s all there is to it! This is the protocol we’ve been using for the past two years for natural prevention and treatment of coccidiosis in goats. I’ve seen oregano work miracles and feel like my herd has never been healthier than it has since we switched to 100% herbal.