Delmarva Farmer

Parasite management: It’s that time of year (Animal Science Update)

(Editor’s note: Hank Bignell is a teaching instructor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in the Department of Animal Sciences.)

Spring is right around the corner and your ruminants are ready to go on pasture.
With the change of warmer weather, you will start seeing your grass grow, but as a ruminant producer, you know what this means, its time for parasites!
Grazing animals are exposed to external and internal parasites. This can affect their health as well as their performance in production; hurting your bottom line.
Having a plan ready to go, prior to the start of the grazing season can help mitigate the potential issues you might come across in terms of parasite invasions.
The first tool in your toolbox when dealing with internal parasites for grazing animals, is establishing a pasture management plan.
There are numerous degrees of grazing systems and strategies that can be implemented on your operations.
Thinking about this prior to “parasite season” i.e. spring, when the temperatures are warm and in humid conditions will prevent these problems to thrive.
The parasite life cycle can be a “vicious” cycle and once its relationship with your pasture is understood, we can start correcting and preventing health problems caused by internal parasites.
This cycle starts when the eggs are excreted into manure on pasture.
They start to develop in this environment and can develop into infective larvae in about 7-10 days in humid and warm weather. Once the parasites move away from the manure hosts, depending on weather conditions will determine the fate of their growth. In spring weather, some infective larvae can survive up to three months.
It takes about four weeks from when the larvae are ingested in the animal and start to produce more eggs.
Why is this important? We can utilize what we know about parasite life cycles so we can help prevent the spread to your grazing animals on your pastures.
We can lower stocking densities in a highly targeted zone. This can be done by rotating or isolating pastures so there is enough time for larvae to die off prior to utilizing those forages for ruminant consumption.
Preventing grazing when pastures are wet can also help. Giving pastures rest times, help minimize larvae growth and consumption, as well as maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the growth of your forages and grasses.
Some parasites overlap with species but generally, parasites are species specific.
Use of dewormers can also be used depending on your style of management and type of parasite.
There are many different types of techniques in administering dewormers to prevent resistance. Examples include pour-ons, injectables, drenches, boluses, feed additives, pastes, and powers.
Only deworming sick animals, or animals that cannot be isolated from infected animals can aid in preventing deworming resistance. In small-ruminants, other techniques, such as the FAMCHA system can be used when deworming for barber pole worms. E
ssentially checking for anemia using the eye of the sheep or goat.
Based on the score of this technique would determine who in the flock would be dewormed.
Internal parasites and prevention methods are not new.
Many researchers and farmers have been working on preventing these issues for many years. Hopefully, this is on your radar as a livestock producer.
Utilizing grazing methods and dewormers can benefit herd and flock health which leads to maximized growth and performance. For more information contact your local agriculture extension agent in your county for more tips on grazing and pasture management to insure livestock health measures.


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