Parasites, or worms, are an unfortunate reality when it comes to raising cattle on pasture. However, beef producers have effective management strategies at their disposal. By implementing these strategies, producers can reduce infestation and safeguard their cattle from diseases, decrease weight gain and mortality.
The key objective is to keep worms below the economic threshold of the cow. To achieve this, here are five valuable tips that will ensure your cattle can continue to stay focused on growth and performance.
1. Rotate Pastures
Prevent and manage worms by implementing a strategic pasture rotation plan. By subdividing and rotating pastures every four to six days, you can effectively combat worms. Make sure animals have enough pasture to graze for the designated period. If rotating entire pastures is necessary, be aware that worms can survive up to 120 days in cool and wet conditions. Avoid returning cattle to the same field for 60-120 days depending on the weather to reduce infestation.
2. Avoid Overgrazing
To minimize the risk of worm infections, leave at least 4-5 inches of pasture grass when rotating fields. Parasitic larvae can only travel up the first 2-3 inches of a grass blade. Opt for taller pasture grasses and avoid overstocking fields to prevent animals from grazing on infected remnants of grass.
3. Graze Mixed Species
Many worms are species-specific. Meaning, cattle worms cannot live in horses and sheep worms cannot live in cattle. Mixed species grazing can help reduce the parasite load on pastures. Whether allowing different species to graze pastures on rotation or grazing together, the presence of multiple species lessens the number of larvae consumed by one species. Cattle should be paired with goats or sheep, while horses should be paired with goats.
4. Use Dewormers Responsibly
Combatting parasite resistance requires careful attention to dewormer dosing. It’s crucial to ensure the correct dosage based on the animal’s weight, as underdosing can contribute to parasite resistance. To accurately measure the dosage, consider using weigh scales in chutes. It’s always recommneded to consult with your veterinarian to discuss deworming protocols and consider only administering dewormers strategically to infected animals.
5. Incorporate Natural Worm Mitigants
As parasite resistance continues to grow, it’s important to explore natural solutions to help mitigate worms. Essential oils have shown promise in preventing worm attachment to the gut wall, while certain plants contain tannins and anti-nutritional factors can deter worms. Additionally, increasing dung beetle populations can help lower worm infections by consuming and burying cattle manure, including parasitic eggs.