Raising livestock comes with numerous challenges. If you're a livestock farmer, one of the most significant concerns you have to deal with is how to manage parasites. If left unchecked, they can affect the health and productivity of your entire herd. Fortunately, you have several effective strategies and preventative practices at your disposal to keep your animals healthy and happy. Here's a helpful guide to best practices for controlling livestock parasites.
1. Feed Your Herd a Balanced Diet
One of the easiest and most effective ways to manage parasites is to ensure that your herd is receiving a balanced diet that meets all their nutritional requirements. This not only bolsters their immune system but also reduces the impact of internal and external parasites. For instance, incorporating high-tannin forages like birdsfoot trefoil, chicory, and Sericea lespedeza into their diet has been proven to help minimize the effects of parasites.
2. Avoid Overcrowding Your Herd
Overcrowding your herd can have detrimental consequences. When animals are in close proximity to each other, it increases the likelihood of external parasites spreading throughout the herd. Maintaining an optimal livestock-to-acre ratio is crucial to preventing overgrazing and ensuring that pastures aren’t contaminated with parasite eggs and larvae. This not only safeguards the health of your herd but also promotes the sustainability of your grazing areas.
3. Keep Grazing and Bedding Areas Clean
Parasites are primarily transferred through manure, making regular cleanup and disposal an absolute necessity. By promptly removing and disposing of manure, you break the parasite lifecycle and prevent the buildup of infectious agents in your pastures and living areas.
Additionally, it’s vital to keep hay and grain off the ground and in feeders. This practice minimizes the risk of contamination and ensures your animals are receiving clean, uncontaminated feed. Cleanliness not only promotes the health and well-being of your herd but also maintains a sanitary environment that can be a key factor in disease prevention.
4. Practice Good Pasture Management Techniques
Pasture rotation is a great way to minimize the likelihood of parasite infection. Infective larvae are usually found on the lower part of the plant, close to the ground. Therefore, by moving your animals to a new pasture whenever the forage is no lower than eight centimetres, you can reduce the risk that your animals will contract parasites.
If you plan to graze pastures multiple times in a season, it’s important to consider the order in which you graze. Start with young animals that have recently been weaned, then move on to lactating or pregnant animals and finally graze with the older, more immune animals last.
It’s also beneficial to let pastures rest for extended periods, which allows earthworms, dung beetles and other organisms to destroy parasite eggs and larvae in the environment.
5. Safe Parasite Treatments
If your cattle contract parasites, it’s essential to treat them before they can cause a variety of health problems, including reduced feed intake, poor performance and even death. Luckily, there are a variety of safe and effective options available. Whether you prefer oral drenches, pour-ons or injectables, you can choose the method that works best for your farm and your animals.
Finally, beyond chemical intervention, managing parasites in your livestock requires a multi-faceted approach that includes a balanced diet, proper pasture management and regular cleanup. By implementing best practices, you can ensure the health and productivity of your animals while minimizing the need for chemical intervention.
6. Safeguard Your Cattle Against Building up Antiparasitic Resistance
Overuse of dewormers can lead to parasites becoming resistant to these treatments over time, which can make it even more challenging to manage infestations in the future. To help prevent antiparasitic resistance, use the proper dosage of dewormers and rotate among various types of antiparasitic treatments.
Additionally, implementing refugia practices can be an effective tool for minimizing resistance. By leaving some cattle untreated, you provide a refuge animal for the worms, which can reduce the selection pressure on particular dewormers.
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