Internal parasites, or worms, in cattle can have a devastating impact on profits. They rob cattle of nutrients, decrease feed intake and overstimulate the immune system. Kansas State University estimates an annual economic loss of over $3 billion to the livestock industry due to cattle worms.
How to Manage Worms in Cattle
Developing a dewormer strategy tailored to your farm can prevent parasitic resistance. Not every grazing animal needs to be dewormed regularly. Consult your veterinarian before implementing a dewormer program.
To minimize the risk of reinfection, worm resistance and pasture infestation, Kansas State University recommends selectively administering dewormers to infected animals only.
Reduce Reinfection and Resistance
Parasites are remarkably resilient. Despite harsh environmental conditions like droughts and winter, their eggs can survive for long periods of time. To make matters worse, adult worms have the ability to become inactive or dormant within the host animal, ensuring their continued existence throughout the year.
Additionally, parasites have the ability to develop resistance to dewormers. This is a growing concern in the industry as dewormers are often overused or used incorrectly. When worms survive treatment, they reproduce and pass on their resistant genes to their offspring. As a result, standard dewormers are steadily losing their effectiveness.
Essential Oils: A Natural Solution to Manage Cattle Worms
Essential oils are being increasingly tested and utilized in the livestock industry to determine their effectiveness in managing cattle worms naturally without developing resistance.
Research from Louisiana Tech University found that Regano essential oil feed additive in lamb rations kept parasite eggs at levels similar to those of lambs receiving a commercial dewormer. Results from this study suggest that oral administration of Regano through daily feedings may serve as a dewormer for producers focused on decreasing the use of medications. It also decreases the need to handle frequently, and subsequently stress lambs.
Another study conducted in Maine on four organic farms found that Regano 500 essential oil feed supplementation in sheep and goats helped reduce coccidia parasites in fecal samples of treated animals by 39% in sheep and 51% in goats. Additionally in goats, the parasites Trichostrongyles and Haemonchus Contortus were reduced by 100% in treated animals compared with untreated animals.
How Essential Oils Help Manage Worms
After worms are ingested, they pass through the rumen until they reach the gastrointestinal tract, where they latch onto the gut wall and begin robbing nutrients from the animal.
Research confirms that worms find essential oils irritating, causing them to pass through the animal’s system without latching onto the gut wall. Plus, it’s been shown that essential oils are effective in reducing parasite larvae and managing infestation rates on pasture.
With any parasite program, the goal isn’t to eliminate worms completely. It’s to maintain the economic threshold of the animal. While cattle will eventually develop immunity to parasites over time, young calves with weaker immune systems are more vulnerable and require protection.
Additionally, essential oils can have secondary benefits other than just managing worms. Studies show that essential oil feed additives and water additives can help improve cattle feed efficiency, immunity and overall herd health.