Livestock parasites have plagued farmers since the very beginning of the trade. Here are seven ways you can protect livestock from parasites and all the health problems that they bring.
1. Manure management
Parasites are mainly contracted through exposure to larvae-containing manure. Removing them from grazing areas can therefore help minimize parasitic infections on your livestock. Needless to say, you should also regularly clean stalls, cages, and other farm areas that your animals frequently visit.
2. Grazing rotation
Parasite eggs passed in livestock manure reach their infective stage in as early as six days. With that said, one of the most effective ways to stay ahead of this pattern is to subdivide your field into smaller areas. Use a single grazing area for six days, and then proceed to rotate your animals into a new field after that. You’re basically moving the animals out of the parasite-filled area before the parasites can even become infective.
Make sure to keep your livestock out of “used” areas long enough for the larvae to die completely. This can take up to 3 to 4 months in moist and cool conditions. However, they die a lot faster in hot and dry weather.
3. Harvest for hay
In connection to tip no. 2, consider harvesting used fields for hay in order to give the sun more access to the parasite-filled ground. Again, parasites hate hot and dry environments, so more exposure to sunlight will speed up their death and consequently, help protect livestock from parasites.
4. Avoid using the ground for feeding
When it comes to feeding, feed bunks and/or other special containers are preferred over feeding livestock directly from the ground. You don’t want the animals to eat from where active parasites could be present, right?
Likewise, clean and sanitize troughs and water buckets regularly, as well. This will result in lower fecal contamination risks.
5. Multi-species grazing
If you’re raising different kinds of livestock, use that to your advantage. Not all species are vulnerable to the same parasites. A certain type of parasite can be a problem to cattle, but it might not be a threat to sheep.
You can incorporate multi-species grazing into the rotation tip mentioned above. After one species has grazed a section of the field, let a different animal use it afterwards. By the time the original occupants return to the area, the parasites’ life cycle would have already ended.
6. Pay attention to overgrazing
Worm larvae typically crawl up the plant at a maximum height of two inches from the ground. This means animals ingest a lot more parasites the closer to the ground they get. To protect livestock from parasites, ensure that overgrazing doesn’t happen. Without adequately-tall plant life, animals are forced to eat pretty much from the ground, which is disastrous if you’re trying to avoid parasites.
7. Cull vulnerable animals to protect livestock from parasites
Resistance to parasites can be a genetic trait. With that said, you might want to selectively cull the animals who exhibit the most vulnerability to parasitic infections. Observe which animals have to get treated frequently, or take note of the ones who get hit by parasites the hardest. This solution might be rather severe, but it will pay off in the long run as you will be left with the strongest and most resistant breeding lines.