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Where There Are Cattle, There Are Parasites: Nine Tips For Managing Parasites In Your Herd

Are your cattle itchy and scratchy? Have you noticed reduced feed intake or altered grazing behaviour? These may be signs of a parasite problem in your herd. 

Effective parasite management is a balancing act. On one hand, controlling parasites is essential for maintaining cattle health, welfare and productivity. While on the other hand, over-use of some treatment methods can lead to parasite resistance, which negatively impacts the long-term health of the herd and can also affect the environment. 

The type of parasites present and the magnitude of the problem will vary based on different factors such as animal health, geography, season and management scenarios. Therefore, it is important to take a multifaceted approach when combating parasites.  

Here are nine tips to help manage parasites on your farm:  

Tip #1: Meet animal nutritional requirements and maintain cattle in good body condition.

Healthy cattle are less susceptible to the impacts of both internal and external parasites. When cattle are thin or have nutritional deficiencies, their ability to cope with parasites is reduced. Routine feed testing should be implemented to ensure rations are properly balanced and to correct any nutritional deficiencies that may be present.   

Tip #2: Implement biosecurity protocols on your farm focused on parasite prevention and control.

New cattle introduced onto your farm can be a source of external and internal parasites that can contaminate your cattle and pastures.  Have a proactive biosecurity plan in place, which may mean quarantining new entrants. Isolate and inspect new animals for lice or other parasites, and treat them 10 to 14 days prior to allowing them to join the rest of the cattle to prevent infesting the main herd. When treating, use a combination of control products from two different dewormer classes, such as Ivermectin plus fenbendazole, to minimize the risk of bringing resistant parasites into your farm. Consult your veterinarian to discuss your parasite biosecurity program.    

Tip #3: Ensure pastures are rested between grazing periods to help reduce parasite load.

Infective larvae cannot survive for a long time after hatching without being ingested by a host animal so providing a pasture rest period helps to break that cycle. The length of rest periods for pastures will vary depending on factors such as forage species, level of utilization and environmental conditions.

Tip #4: Monitor parasite burdens by conducting fecal egg counts on your herd.

This will allow assessment of internal parasite loads and determine which parasites you need to target. Consult your veterinarian on the most appropriate sampling strategy to use. The results from fecal egg counts must be interpreted in the context of your grazing management, production practices and parasite control regimes. 

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