The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) is collaborating with Montana State University (MSU) Sheep Extension to conduct regional Integrative Parasite Management (IPM) training in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. In this training, county extension agents, veterinarians, and NRCS staff will learn the potential risks associated with rising internal parasite infection rates in western sheep flocks and the proven IPM methodologies to combat these parasites, most notably the Barber Pole Worm, Haemonchus contortus (H. contortus). Training sessions in all three states will include instruction in FAMACHA eye scoring, creating parasite refugias, conducting fecal egg counts (FEC), implementing grazing protocols to limit infection, and on-farm genetic selection strategies to maximize animal resilience to internal parasites. In addition to this training, we will provide presentations at state woolgrower conventions and will develop a nationally accessible webinar to increase awareness of the expanding range of H. contortus infection and successful holistic control practices that can be employed by producers. Extension and technical notes to assist educators will also be developed and posted on the ATTRA website, https://attra.ncat.org/.
Materials, regional training, and subsequent educator-led trainings will be evaluated through training evaluations, and six and twelve month follow-up educator and producer surveys. We expect to see educators who are more knowledgeable in assisting sheep producers mitigate the effects of increasing H. contortus infections through proven sustainable practices. It is our hope that this will contribute to propelling the sheep industry forward by controlling internal parasites and increasing the effective lifetimes of anthelmintic dewormers.
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The overall goal of this project is twofold. The initial goal is to inform agricultural professionals and veterinarians of the need to take seriously the threat that internal parasites pose to sheep producers in the Inter-Mountain West region, especially those producing sheep on irrigated pastures. The second complementary goal is to provide effective training to these educators in all aspects of IPM as defined by the American Consortium for Small Ruminant Control (ACSRPC), to assist sheep producers in the sustainable control of internal parasites, most notably H. contortus.
The ultimate success of the project will be measured by the number of agricultural educators who complete the IPM training sessions and their subsequent education of sheep producers in these practices. The western sheep industry needs to be proactive in the fight against H. contortus. In order to ensure economic viability, producers need the skills to design and implement holistic strategies to control internal parasites.
This project builds on the experiences of educators and producers in their fight against internal parasites in the south and northeastern United States. They are having measurable success controlling H. contortus, but only after IPM programs have been employed. The Intermountain West sheep industry is in the enviable position to be proactive in its suppression of internal parasites through the use of IPM. This project’s goal is to advance that advantage.
Integrated Parasite Management creates specific outcomes. These results can be measured in the number of sheep in a flock that have demonstrated resilience to internal parasite infection as expressed in fecal egg counts and FAMACHA http://www.wormx.info/famacha scoring. Decreased anthelmintic use will be immediately apparent to producers and to the educators and practicing veterinarians that advise them. Dewormers will be observed to be effective for a longer period of time. This is extremely important, given the limited amount of anthelmintic classes currently available or in the foreseeable future to sheep producers. As the genetic selection component of IPM is practiced, sheep producers will report to agriculture professionals and veterinarians that they are seeing less and less incidence of internal parasitism. Over several years, the ultimate success of the project will be reflected by a decrease in internal parasite infections in those susceptible flocks that employ IPM compared to those that do not.
According to the USDA-NASS 2012 census of agriculture, 53% of Montana’s 1300 sheep operations are 100 head or less (USDA-NASS. 2012. Census of Agriculture). Representing an underserved community, many smaller operations continuously graze small acreage or irrigated pastures, which are more pre-disposed to gastro intestinal parasite inoculation. In the summer of 2016, Stewart and Scott (data unpublished) conducted a pilot project collecting fecal egg counts on small operations to quantify the level of parasite burden. Of the eleven operations surveyed, seven exhibited a moderate to excessive degree of gastro-intestinal parasitism. From these findings additional questions arose, i.e., what are the production losses due to these parasite burdens, what degree of anthelmintic resistance exists in these flocks, and what management strategies can be implemented to minimize reinfections? Crook et al., (2016) observed wide-spread resistance to various classes of dewormers in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. eg., benzimidazoles, ivermectin, moxidectin, and levamisole on 100%, 82%, 47%, and 24% of farms, respectively.
The extent of parasite infection, most notably H. contortus, in the Inter-Mountain West is incomplete. Concurrently, producer awareness of the threat of internal parasites and how to combat them is marginal.
We have launched a project patterned directly after the highly successful SSARE project (Whitley, N.C.,2011).conducted by Dr. Thomas Terrill, et. al. (LS05-177 Sustainable Control of Gastro-intestinal Nematodes in Small Ruminants, 2009) to (1) address the knowledge gaps and target curriculum for control strategies, (2) create producer awareness, and (3) provide assistance to producers by educating ag extension professionals and veterinarians through a series of Train the Trainer sessions.
The long term goals of this project are: (1) survey sheep producer’s perceptions as to the severity of internal parasite infection, (2) quantify the prevalence of H. contortus present through fecal egg counting on sheep operations, (3) employ the DrenchRite assay http://www.wormx.info/storeyhowell2012 to ascertain the degree of resistance to anthelmintic drugs on these operations, and most notably, (4) assist producers through a series of Train the Trainer sessions directed at enabling ag professionals and veterinarians to effectively train producers in all aspects of Integrated Parasite Management (IPM) at the farm level.
Dr. Whit Stewart, University of Wyoming Sheep Extension Specialist, and Dave Scott, Livestock Specialist at the National Center for Appropriate Technology have conducted IPM training for small ruminant producers in 2015 and 2016 at Dave’s sheep operation, Montana Highland Lamb. Forty five attendees participated in these workshops, resulting in 39 FAMACHA certifications. Feedback from these producers has been very favorable. The project team’s goal is to take the next step and extend this training to educators and veterinarians, enabling them to reach out and train producers over a much larger region, specifically the states of Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.
This project focuses on increasing the awareness of producers, veterinarians, and agricultural professionals of the threat of the Barber Pole worm to the sheep industry in the Intermountain States and on teaching Integrated Parasite Management to combat it. IPM training sessions will be conducted on six farms in 2018 and 2019 for training professionals and farmers in FAMACHA eye scoring, creating parasite genetic refugias, grazing strategies, and genetic selection to limit the parasite’s impact on Western farms and ranches, particularly those that are irrigated. This focus will also be leveraged at annual woolgrower conventions in Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho in 2017 and 2018 through presentations and at our “Got Worms?” booth at these conventions.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
In 2017, our goal was to increase the awareness of veterinarians, ag professionals, and farmers of the threat that the Barber Pole worm posed to sheep operations and to publicize our workshops on Integrated Parasite Management that we will be conducting in 2018 and 2019. Integral to this outreach was applied research conducted by Dr. Whit Stewart of U of Wyoming and Dr. Thomas Murphy of Montana State University concerning the degree of anthelmintic resistance of the Barber Pole worm in Montana and Wyoming sheep flocks.
Dr. Whit Stewart of the University of WY Sheep Extension and NCAT have publicized to producers and ag professionals (veterinarians, extension agents, and NRCS staff) the threat that internal parasites pose through presentations at Woolgrower conventions and meetings in Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. I also delivered this message to veterinarians who affect policy at the 2017 United States Animal Health Association Annual Meeting. Additionally, I included this topic in presentations to three student classes at in the Department of Range and Animal Sciences at Montana State University.
At each presentation, Dr. Stewart and I included the findings from the project’s first year of applied research (Dr. Whit Stewart, U of WY, Dr. Thomas Murphy, Montana State University) on sheep internal parasites. These findings underscored the facts that internal parasites are indeed a problem for Montana and Wyoming producers and that there is potential for parasite resistance to anthelmintics.
To date, there has been little applied research in the Inter Mountain West concerning the presence of Barber Pole worm infection or it’s resistance to anthelmintics. Drs. Stewart’s and Murphy’s findings during the first year of applied research is attached Report-Year-1-Field-Research-EW17-011WS-FINAL-121817. In essence, the study found significant presence of Barber Pole infection in the flocks surveyed and parasite resistance to one of the most common anthelmintics, Benzimidazole. There was moderate resistance to Levamisol and Ivermectin and no resistance to Moxidectin. These results indicate that dewormer resistance is occurring and perhaps increasing; however, there is opportunity to put into place Integrated Parasite Management strategies for positive impacts.
Additionally, parasite infection was found primarily in irrigated settings. However, there is significant potential for infection in large range operations that have sub irrigated or irrigated pastures near ranch headquarters that orphan lambs, rams, or ewes not fit to go out on the range graze upon. The potential of these “at risk” pastures typically is forgotten and needs to be addressed.
The small study established that the Barber Pole worm is a force to be reckoned with in both range and irrigated operations and substantiates the need for the Train the Trainer IPM workshops to be conducted in years two and three of the project. The study’s results were included in our outreach to nearly 900 farmers, veterinarians, and ag professionals through nine presentations in 2017. It captured the attention of audiences, and helped create interest in the upcoming Train the Trainer IPM sessions.
Producer surveys (sample one is attached, Internal-Parasite-Producer-Survey-2017) were conducted at the Montana and West Central States Woolgrower conventions in 2016-2017 in addition to a summary of the results Producer-Parasite-Survey-2016.-2017-MT-WCS-Woolgrowers-conventions-1918. This survey of 34 producers reveals that 71% of the respondents considered internal parasites a manageable to major threat. Furthermore, 68% of the respondents dewormed all animals while only 3% were employing FAMACHA scoring. This indicates that there is a potential for anthemintic resistance due to the lack of a parasitic genetic refugia in flocks. Forty seven percent indicated that they would be interested in attending an IPM training session, demonstrating the need for IPM trainers.
This year’s research and outreach to ag professionals and producers had a positive outcome: it increased awareness in the parasitic threat and also created interest in attending the Train the Trainer IPM sessions scheduled in 2018 and 2019.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Due to producer interest, one IPM workshop was given by NCAT in July 2017 for producers at Montana Highland Lamb in Whitehall, MT. Nineteen producers and family members from 15 ranchers attended with a total of 15 FAMACHA cards being given out to successful participants. These participants are skilled in putting IPM into practice on their sheep operations.
We have had no outcomes directly associated with training ag professionals and veterinarians or in the number of farmers reached through their programs. These outcomes will be generated in years two and three of the project.