Keeping Cattle Parasite Free

Parasites have several negative effects on cattle health and productivity. They suppress appetite, negatively impact growth, damage gut lining, and make cattle more susceptible to disease. An Iowa State University study calculated a per-animal cost of up to $190 as a result of decreases in gain and reproduction in non-dewormed cattle.

Cattlemen should consider a deworming program to combat parasites as a critical part of a herd health plan. This allows cattle to reach their full genetic potential, increases intake and nutrient absorption, and improves overall health, growth and reproduction.

Understanding the Parasite Lifecycle

Before we get to some thoughts about a program, let’s talk about the parasite lifecycle. Knowing when to manage parasites is as important as knowing it itself.

Worms have three larval stages: L1, L2, and L3. During L1 and L2 stages, larvae are immobile and will stay on the manure pat. Development and maturation depend on various conditions. Under prime conditions, they can develop into infective larvae in a matter of days. The L3 stage is the infective stage. Larvae move away from the manure pat with moisture and have an external covering that protects them from the environment but inhibits nutrient consumption. At this stage, the larvae are searching for a host.

The parasite lifecycle is cyclical. The time from ingestion to adult will vary depending on the host animal’s age:

  • Calves – 2 to 4 weeks

  • Stockers or Replacement heifers – 4 to 5 weeks

  • Mature Cows – 6 to 8 weeks

Setting Up Your Deworming Program

It’s important to work with your veterinarian and nutritionist to set up a deworming program that fits your needs. Most deworming programs start in the fall and winter; you will want to deworm your cow herd after a killing frost when temperatures are below 50°F for an extended period. It is also a best practice to deworm any incoming cattle from outside your operation.

Many cows get dewormed at pregnancy check, which may not be the best time. Temperatures are usually above 50°F and there has not been a killing frost, so when they go back on grass, they will get re-infected. Optimally, these cows will be dewormed at the right time so they can come through the winter parasite free. Bulls should be dewormed on the same schedule as cows.

When cattle aren't fighting off the burden of worms and parasites, they're healthier overall. And when cattle are healthy, they require fewer resources and return more profitability.

It's never too early to begin thinking about your cattle deworming program, and our stores carry plenty of quality deworming products. Our associates are ready to help you get off to the right start this season! Simply call or stop by and we'll be happy to take care of you.


NOTE: This post is adapted (with permission) from content proudly brought to you by our partners at Nutrena and Cargill Animal Nutrition. The original article appears here.

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