Don't count on cold to kill parasites
Record-breaking snowfall and extremely cold temperatures have cow-calf producers excited for spring and all things that go with it: lush, green pastures; growing calves; and healthy cows. While winter may have taken its toll on many things, resilient parasites have proven to survive even the coldest of winters.
Ridding pastures of parasites is not simple during a long winter—they simply overwinter in cattle or pastures. In fact, studies demonstrate that infective larvae were able to survive on pastures during winter months.
“If parasites didn’t survive the winter, we would never have summer parasites to worry about,” said Gary Sides, Ph.D., Zoetis Cattle Technical Services. “It is important for producers from all geographies to implement a spring deworming program to help give cows a chance to rebound from the tough winter, be productive during calving and, ultimately, be ready for the next breeding season.”
Controlling parasites in cattle is not just beneficial for an animal’s immune system—there are performance advantages as well. It’s estimated that internal parasites cost the cattle industry about $3 billion each year in lost weight gains, poor feed conversion and increased disease.Since parasites also can suppress appetites and limit absorption of nutrients—ultimately reducing feed efficiency and gain—it’s important to have a deworming plan in place this spring.
“Coming off of a long winter, cows are in tougher shape and do not have any spare nutrients to fight off parasites,” Sides explained. “Spring is the most critical season in the cow’s life, and with cattle prices at all-time highs, we need to take advantage of every opportunity to keep them in shape, including deworming at branding or turnout.”
Internal parasites, such as Ostertagia ostertagi or the brown stomach worm, can cause significant losses because of their impact on an animal’s health, reproduction, growth and productivity. For cows, it’s important to maintain good body condition and keep them ready for the next breeding season. For calves, every deworming offers the opportunity for significant improvement in productivity.
“Parasites require grass and cattle to complete their life cycle,” Sides continued. “Therefore, you can be almost certain that cattle on grass are infected with parasites. Many different internal parasites can cause problems, but the brown stomach worm may be the most damaging internal parasite in cattle.
To help protect cattle against economically harmful parasites such as the brown stomach worm, Sides recommends using a broad-spectrum dewormer.
“Fighting parasites that have overwintered on pastures is a simple, low-cost process and something every cow/calf producer should take advantage of during branding or turnout,” Sides explained. “By combining effective products with the expertise of their local veterinarians, producers can easily develop an effective parasite control program that best suits their herd and geography.”