Managing Parasites in Grazing Livestock
Over the past few decades, managing internal parasites in livestock has become increasingly difficult due to more and more drug resistant parasites. It used to be easy to simply deworm your livestock a couple times a year, but that is no longer the case in most situations, as common dewormers continue to decline in effectiveness. Instead, livestock owners are now searching for more natural and scientific methods to help control and manage their parasite problems in addition to using dewormers. Perhaps one of the best methods to use is to create an Integrated Parasite Management Scheme for the entire farm.
An Integrated Parasite Management Scheme focuses on four main aspects which include: the animals themselves, the soil conditions, forages used or available, and the local weather. When all of these aspects of the farm are considered, the main goal becomes preventing the transmission of parasites from one individual to another. For example, nutrition plays a key role in how well an individual animal is able to overcome the effects from any parasites that they may acquire. It is much easier for a strong and healthy animal to withstand parasite infections than it would be for a malnourished animal. There are many studies showing the connection between parasite infections and nutritional level, but this should come as no surprise to most.
However, one area that is sometimes overlooked as a source for parasite control is pasture management. If you take time to think about it, most parasites in livestock are transferred from one individual to another via some level of contact with infected manure. It is quite easy to manage manure when it is inside the barn or in the cemented barnyard, but when livestock is out in pasture manure becomes increasingly difficult to manage. Instead, one must manage the grazing patterns of their livestock over periods of time. One of the most prevalent ways that livestock can become infected with internal parasites is for the livestock to be eating the pasture grasses down to the ground level. It is at ground level were parasites usually are ingested. A good way to try to prevent this from happening is to analyze the usage of your pasture and use a controlled grazing method. This controlled grazing method allows certain areas the necessary time to grow when livestock is not constantly eating the plants down. Also, during this time soil organisms, such as beetles, earthworms and others can destroy or prevent the parasite eggs or larvae from developing. Since using a controlled grazing method allows the plant life to grow, this also naturally prevents larval parasites from reaching the heights from which the livestock will be eating because parasite larvae usually only crawl about an Inch from the ground.
Depending on which species of livestock you raise, you may have to be more diligent about your Parasite Management Scheme since livestock grazing styles vary so much. For example, if you raise sheep you most likely have noticed that sheep tend to eat their pasture closer to the ground than cattle typically do. The most important thing about your Parasite Management Scheme is for you to specifically research your livestock species as well as the area that they pasture on; including soil type, forage type and seasonal weather conditions. With a little guidance from your trusted vet, you should be on your way to better internal parasite management, which most importantly increases your overall production and profit.
Shannon Stamper has a B.S. in Science Education from the University of Wisconsin River Falls. She has been active with show animals her whole life and started working in Animal Nutrition in 2006.