Question of the Week
Answer: There are several things you can do to reduce the need for deworming. Providing your cows with excellent nutrition, practicing rotational grazing, and breeding for parasite resistance can reduce your dependence on deworming medications. All animals will face some parasite burden. Your goal should be to deworm only animals that actually need treatment— that is, animals that are showing signs of parasitism.
There are several natural compounds that have been used to organically treat cattle, including garlic, tannin containing plants like Sericea lespedeza, copper boluses, chicory, and wormwood.
If you are certified organic, then you must check with your certifier before treating your animals. You must ensure you are treating with an approved substance. You should also check with your local veterinarian. He or she can perform a fecal egg count on your animals, letting you know the parasite load and what types of parasites your animals have. You may find out that your animals aren't actually in need of treatment.
If your cow is on pasture, incorporating a three-pronged approach into your grazing strategy will reduce worm infestation.
A common cattle parasite, the Brown Stomach Worm (Ostertagia ostertagi), will locate two to three inches up the grass stem within six days of exiting the manure pat. Dividing your pastures into paddocks and exiting the paddocks with a five- to six-inch residual height of grass will greatly reduce the ingestion of infective larvae. Additionally, moving cattle to a new paddock at least every five days significantly decreases the chance of infection. Furthermore, instituting a pasture rest of greater than 35 days will decrease the survival of the infective larvae. To accomplish this, you will need to divide your pasture into at least eight five-day paddocks. In areas of rainfall pasture, more paddocks will have to be added during the drier parts of the summer when the grass growth is slower in order to maintain your 35-day pasture rest.
In contrast, continuous grazing ignores all three of these management controls. Consequently, cattle are subjected to the parasite levels that can easily overcome the animals' ability to resist infection.
For more information on parasite control, see the following ATTRA publications:
Managing Internal Parasites in Sheep and Goats
Irrigated Pastures: Setting up an Intensive Grazing System That Works
Integrated Parasite Management for Livestock
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