Manage pests before they get out of control

The cool days of the upcoming fall season will be more than welcome on farms throughout the Ozarks. As producers anticipate milder weather ahead, they may want to consider strategies to help minimize their livestock’s exposure to internal parasites.

Internal Parasites in Cattle: There are many species of worms that affect cattle. However, there is one parasite in particular that can cause the most harm to a herd during the fall and winter months. The brown stomach worm is a parasite that is found on the lining of a bovine’s true stomach called the abomasum.  

The brown worm feeds on the animal’s stomach lining creating problems with digestion. These parasites can cause anemia, scouring, weight loss, decreased milk production and in some cases death. Dr. Eva Wray, with the University of Arkansas Animal Science and Parasitology, said the brown stomach worm impacts cattle in the south, below the Mason-Dixon Line, in the fall and winter months. In the north, the brown stomach worm affects cattle during the summer months. 

Controlling Parasites in Cattle: Cattle producers can implement the same management strategies as small ruminant producers. Fecal egg counts, testing the effectiveness of dewormers and utilizing rotational grazing methods will all help control problems with parasites. 

Experts suggest fall is a good time to deworm replacement heifers and bulls, followed up by another treatment in the spring for both groups of cattle. If producers have a fall calving season, then it is recommended they deworm the momma cows 30 days prior to calving (or as close as they can get). For cattle farmers weaning calves in the fall months, they should plan to deworm the calves at or close to weaning. Wray states conducting a fecal egg count before treating animals to make sure deworming is needed. 

Internal Parasites in Small Ruminants: For small ruminants, internal parasites are a concern not only in the fall, but in every season. 

Though there are a number of parasites that impact small ruminants, there is one in particular that producers should address. “For small ruminants, the biggest concern, far and away, is the barber pole worm,” Wray explained. 

The barber pole worm sucks blood from the lining of the abomasum. This can lead to severe anemia, weight loss, poor wool growth, decreased milk production, diarrhea and often times death. Affected animals may have pale gums and conjunctiva inside their eyelids, bottle jaw and appear lethargic or depressed. 

Wray explained that during the late fall/early winter to late winter/early spring the barber pole worm goes into a natural, arrested state in the abomasum. The specific timing depends on how mild the winter is, how far north the farm is located and how early spring comes. 

The barber pole worms do not feed or reproduce during the arrested stage, which is similar to hibernation. “However, parasitisms can still possibly occur in the winter months if we have a mild winter, especially on operations located further south and/or with heavily-infected pastures,” Wray said.

Controlling Parasites in Small Ruminants: Some of the management practices necessary to control internal parasites in cattle and small ruminants are the same. 

In regards to small ruminants, determining the extent of the problem is the first step. This is achieved through regular fecal egg counts. Once information is collected, producers can use it to adjust their husbandry style to try to control parasites through management. “Fecal egg counts will also help you to identify the animals that are carrying the majority of the worms; 20 to 30 percent of your sheep or goats have 70 to 80 percent of the parasites on your place,” Wray added.  

In addition, producers should utilize Fecal Egg Count Reduction tests to analyze whether their dewormers are effective. “Every worm in your animal means fewer overall dollars in your pocket, so knowing what is going on inside your production animal is very important,” Wray said.


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