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Regular monitoring for optimum parasite control

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This is a good stage in the grazing season to monitor animals and review parasite control, writes Matt O’Keeffe.

 Depending on weather conditions, stocking densities and availability of clean pasture, the pattern for the remainder of the grazing season can usually be determined by what happens during the first six to eight weeks after turnout. This year’s particular weather circumstances, with late turn-out followed in June by very dry warm weather, make for an unusual year in terms of parasite control. The advice however is still follow protocols for parasite control programmes as usual.

The reasons to monitor performance and carry out diagnostic sampling in grazing cattle include confirmation that any early season parasite control measures are working. In addition, it allows the assessment of the risks of parasite disease and/or poor performance for the remainder of the grazing season.

Parasite build-up

Infections with all of these parasites can build up over the grazing season, especially if no mid-season control measures are carried out. Performance may suffer at this time too through the decline in grass availability and quality, so that the effect of parasites and under-nutrition on performance can be severe.

As highlighted in the AHI leaflet ‘Parasite control at turnout’, the most important parasites during the grazing season are the three main groups of helminths: the stomach and intestinal worms collectively known as gutworms, lungworms and liver and rumen fluke. The emphasis as outlined by AHI is on monitoring and assessing what further actions need to take place, focusing on both dairy and beef cattle. Gutworms are present on every farm and if uncontrolled, can cause can cause disease in first grazing season animals and loss of performance in older animals. Control measures include turning calves out onto clean pasture, meaning pasture that was not grazed by young animals since mid-summer in the previous year. Regular monitoring of parasite egg excretions along with treatment with appropriate anthelmintics is also advised.

Tailored parasite management AHI emphasises that effective and timely parasite control on farm has significant impacts on animal health, farm productivity and the processing industry. Reduced feed conversion due to parasite burdens, and decreased overall animal health on farm can be minimised with a strategic approach to tackling parasites on farm. The changing weather patterns and combination of housing and grazing systems used in Irish farms necessitate a tailored approach for many farms, which is best designed by individual farmers working closely with their vets. A three-pronged approach is recommended by AHI’s Parasite Control Technical Working Group to tackle parasites on Irish farms.

1. Monitoring
2. Testing
3. Strategic Treatment This approach is a move

This approach is a move away from the older ‘continual and repeated blanket treatment’ approach previously endorsed on farm, and aims to combine good grazing practices with effective testing to achieve the best results on farm. It is designed to be a more sustainable approach, aiming to minimise Anthelmintic Resistance and minimise treatments on farm.

Reducing parasite burdens on farm will increase productivity and result in increased profitability.

Forecasting parasite pressures Parasitic Disease Forecasts are regularly available from DAFM (Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine) for Irish farmers. These are prepared by DAFM parasitologists using knowledge of parasite lifecycles combined with meteorology data to predict the possible upcoming patterns of parasites and probable impacts on-farm. DAFM work closely with other industry experts such as the AHI TWG for Parasite Control to provide the most accurate forecast possible.

Tags: Animal Health Ireland Parasite control grazing season Parasite Control Technical Working Group