New research from the University of Florida might have found an inexpensive solution to a severe problem that is plaguing goat farming, which ranks as the fastest growing segment of the U.S. livestock industry.
Adegbola Adesogan, a professor of ruminant nutrition in UF's Animal Sciences department, led a study that has shown that ground papaya seeds can effectively combat the barber's pole worm that has invaded goat ranches in the southeast U.S. and much of the rest of the world.
The UF study, overseen by Adesogan for a master's thesis done by Peruvian graduate student Miguel Zarate, found that 10 grams of ground papaya seed per head per day was as effective as commercial medications used by veterinarians, while being much less expensive. The papaya seeds, added to a base diet of bahiagrass, removed 78 percent of adult parasites and 72 percent of their eggs.
The study found that it typically takes about two weeks to treat worm infestation in an infected goat.
That finding is particularly important because over the last several years, the barber's pole worm has become increasingly resistant to the most popular medications administered by veterinarians.
Pat Odor, founder and owner of Tampa-based Boer Goats Ranch, which raises registered purebred goats and sells them to a dozen commercial goat farming customers in Florida, hailed the promising new research as a long-awaited potential solution to a worsening problem.
"I am overwhelmed by the news that someone has finally come up with something that might actually work in dealing with the worm problem," said Odor, who launched Boer Goats Farm four years ago and began battling the parasite a year ago. "And Boer goats have been particularly hard hit."
Odor said that veterinary services and medications, as well as losses of young goats to death from the worm within days of infestation, have increased his operating costs by 15 percent. And because of competition, he has not been able to raise his prices.
The barber's pole worm problem, he said, has been the main topic at goat industry meetings he has attended over the last year. He also said he has talked to goat farmers as far away as Australia in search of a solution.
"So if the UF research leads to a commercially available product," Odor said, "every goat farmer in the country would buy it." He said he intends to contact Adesogan to seek help and serve as a participant in the next step of the research.
Despite the encouraging early results of the study, UF has not officially endorsed the papaya seed treatment.
Adesogan said the next step in his research will be further study of the best varieties of papaya seeds to use, dosages and side effects. "For example," he said, "we need to determine whether results are dependent on the specific variety of papaya."
In order to continue his research, Adesogan needs new funding. The initial study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, goat farming continues to grow as demand increases for goat meat, especially among ethnic populations such as immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Florida, goat ranching expanded dramatically between 2005 and 2010, from 36,000 meat animals to 60,000, according to USDA data.
Goat meat is lower in calories, fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Goat meat accounts for more than 60 percent of red meat consumption worldwide.
Most goat meat is still sold at the farm. But based on increasing demand, more retail grocers are selling it, too.
"Goat ranching is a growing industry because consumer demand for goat meat continues to grow," Odor said. "It is a great business and goat ranchers are thriving, except for the barber's pole worm problem. So I am very encouraged to learn that the new research has been done. I just hope it leads to a commercially available product that can be used to solve the problem."