Improving small ruminant parasite control in New England

Final Report for LNE10-300

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $179,205.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
Project Leader:
Katherine Petersson
University of Rhode Island
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Project Information

Summary:

The goal of this project is to improve the parasite control practices of farmers in the region through parasite control workshops supported by farm visits. Research will investigate the anthelmintic potential of the condensed tannins in cranberries and the effect of vitamin E supplementation on the host response to parasite infection. Direct participation in workshops followed by hands-on reinforcement of best management practices during on-farm visits will result in at least three hundred and sixty producers of sheep and/or goats reducing their cost of anthelmintic use by 50% ($2/animal) on 4,240 animals (Year 1 – $2,853, Year 2 – $5,706, Year 3 – $8,560 , Total – $17,119) by implementing some or all of the following practices: use of the FAMACHA system, body condition scoring, fecal egg counts for selective deworming, mixed species grazing and pasture rotation. We reached 86% of the targeted animals but only 38% of the targeted numbers of producers. Producers joining the project in 2010 and 2012 dewormed 72 and 71% of their animals respectively during the previous parasite season. These producers reduced their deworming costs at the one year follow-up by 50 (2010) and 56% (2012). The 2010 producers lost the ground they had gained by the third year of follow-up. The 2011 producers however, although not deworming nearly the number of animals of the other producers prior to enrollment in this project (40%), continued to reduce their deworming costs in the following years.

 Over a four year period, 400+ small ruminant producers and veterinarians attended 39 workshops on integrated parasite control throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. One hundred forty-four producers went on to complete a comprehensive survey of their current parasite control practices, issues and costs and 135 producer farms participated in farm visits to monitor their flocks/herds for parasite infection and species identification, and to evaluate dewormer efficacy. A total of 3,589 animals were evaluated (2,543 sheep, 1,021 goats, and 25 unspecified) and a total of 2,314 fecal egg counts and 131 fecal cultures (species identification) were conducted as part of these farm visits. From 2010 – 2013, thirty Fecal Egg Count Reduction Tests were conducted for qualifying project farms to determine anthelmintic resistance. In addition, 3 videos on integrated parasite control, FAMACHA Scoring and fecal egg counts, and a website (http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat) were developed and distributed to project partners, 135 project participants and their veterinarians (55) in an effort to reinforce and support knowledge gained and reach a larger producer-base who had limited time to attend limited workshops.  

 Follow-up surveys were conducted with active producer farms each year during the winter months to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes. These follow-up surveys were conducted cumulatively (one year later; two years later; and three years later) after their farm visit. Eighty-two percent of producer farms (55% response rate) implemented new parasite control practices one year after receiving education and farm visits. Eighty-five percent (44% response rate) implemented new parasite control practices two years later; and 94% (44% response rate) implemented new parasite control practices 3 years later. The majority of producer farms implemented: FAMACHA scoring, body condition scoring, rotational grazing and other pasture management practices, fecal egg counts, and genetic selection.

 The research component of this project investigated the effect of vitamin E supplementation on an experimental Haemonchus contortus infection in lambs as well as the potential anti-parasitic activity of cranberry leaf powder (CLP) and a CLP condensed tannin-containing extract on in vitro and in vivo studies using H. contortus. It was found that supplementing lambs with vitamin E at the current recommended level of the National Research Council (10 IU/kg body weight/day; 2007) decreased abomasal worm burden, blood loss and tended to reduce the fecal egg count. These lambs also mounted a stronger inflammatory cell response. Both cranberry leaf powder extract and cranberry leaf powder exhibited anthelmintic (deworming) activity against H. contortus, at varying stages of development, using in vitro assays as well as in vivo studies in lambs.

 

Introduction:

One of the most serious challenges confronting small ruminant producers globally is the control of gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) parasites. The abomasal and intestinal nematodes accounting for the majority of production, and ultimately economic losses, are the barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus), the brown stomach worm (Teladorsagia circumcincta), and the bankrupt worm (Trichostrongylus colubriformis). These parasites reside in the abomasum and intestines of sheep and goats where they lay eggs that are deposited on the pastures with the fecal material. The eggs hatch, develop into infective larvae and are consumed by grazing animals. Symptoms of GIN infection vary. Diarrhea is the primary symptom of infection with the brown stomach and bankrupt worm. Barber pole worms are blood feeders and can cause severe anemia, lethargy, weight loss, and even death in severe cases. The barber pole worm is prolific, shedding more than 5,000 eggs/day, and typically constitutes the majority of the worm load when present during the grazing season.   Even though it is the most pathogenic worm and when present, is the most economically devastating to the small ruminant producer, its prevalence in New England has not been documented.

Three classes of anthelmintics (dewormers) are used for parasite control in sheep and goats in the United States. However, parasite populations resistant to some or all classes of dewormers have been identified in increasing numbers throughout the U.S., with the highest prevalence of resistance observed in the barber pole worm (Fleming et al., 2006). Until recently, veterinarians, parasitologists and extension personnel have told producers to deworm all animals at regular intervals, to rotate anthelmintics and move animals to a clean pasture after deworming. We now know that these practices increase the numbers of anthelmintic resistant parasites. Best management practices (BMP) for sustainable parasite control are summarized as follows: 1) Determine the degree of parasite susceptibility in the flock/herd, 2) Determine the efficacy of dewormers currently in use on each farm, 3) Deworm only those animals displaying symptoms of parasitism i.e. selective deworming, 4) Manage the animals environment to decrease exposure and, 5) Incorporate alternatives to commercial dewormers in parasite control programs.

Adoption of these BMP's by producers in New England is critical yet confounded by the lack of adequate numbers of extension personnel, small ruminant veterinarians and enough hands-on education programs to reach these producers coupled with, many times, conflicting information on current BMP's. In addition, many producers want to reduce or eliminate their reliance on chemical dewormers and are looking for more sustainable solutions. The goal of the educational component of this project was to improve the parasite control practices of farmers in the region through parasite control workshops supported by farm visits. In order to efficiently and effectively communicate current knowledge to producers, a coordinated multi-state effort was undertaken to provide education, hands-on training and support for New England producers to assist them in the establishment of their own comprehensive parasite control program.  

Research projects focusing on the nutritional modulation of the immune response and identification of non-chemical dewormers are two areas that continue to be top priorities and were compelling elements of this project.

Emergence of anthelmintic resistance in all species of gastrointestinal nematodes, particularly Haemonchus contortus (H. contortus), and growing concern over chemical residues in animal products and in the environment has made the development of alternative methods of parasite control for small ruminants vital. One of the most promising findings, in the last fifteen years in the search for alternative methods of gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) control, has been the discovery that consumption of some forages containing condensed tannins suppress GIN infection. Condensed tannins, also called proanthocyanidins (PAC), are naturally occurring plant polyphenols that significantly affect the nutritive value of forage by forming complexes with proteins, carbohydrates and minerals. Massachusetts is the second largest producer of cranberries in the U.S. accounting for 30% of the nation’s production. Cranberries contain many PAC compounds that have anti-inflammatory, bacterial anti-adhesion, and antioxidant activity in cell culture, animal models, and clinical research (Reed, 2002; Howell, 2007). Cranberry leaves contain greater percentages of PAC than the cranberry fruit and thus are an attractive, economical source of PAC compounds that hold promise as a natural anthelmintic for GIN. During this project we investigated the potential for the bioactive condensed tannins contained in cranberries to function as a natural de-wormer.

Vitamin E, best known for its role as an antioxidant, also plays an integral role in immune system function. Recent recommendations of the National Research Council (NRC, 2007) significantly increased daily vitamin E requirements for sheep from 0.5 IU/kg body weight (BW) to 5.3 IU/kg BW for minimum requirement and 10 IU/kg BW for optimal immune function. The current NRC recommendations (2007) were based on studies indicating that the previous dietary recommendation for vitamin E intake failed to prevent myopathy and hepatic lipidosis in lambs in addition to studies showing enhanced immune function in sheep supplemented with vitamin E. While it is clear that vitamin E supplementation directly affects the immune response of lambs, it is unclear what, if any, impact the inclusion of vitamin E at these levels will have on the ability of lambs to effectively combat parasitic infection. During this project we investigated the effect of vitamin E supplementation on an experimental Haemonchus contortus infection in Dorset lambs.  

Performance Target:

Performance Target. Three hundred and sixty producers of sheep and/or goats will reduce their cost of anthelmintic use by 50% ($2/animal) on 4,240 animals (Year 1 - $2,853, Year 2 - $5,706, Year 3 - $8,560, Total - $17,119) by implementing some or all of the following practices: use of the FAMACHA system, body condition scoring, fecal egg counts for selective deworming, mixed species grazing and pasture rotation. Project duration: 3 years.

Although 135 producer beneficiaries, representing 38% of our targeted 360 producers, participated in this project – the numbers of livestock owned by these producers amounted to 85% of our targeted 4240 animals. The average number of producers that dewormed their animals was 75% and the average percentage of animals dewormed on these farms was 72% (2010 producers), 40% (2011 producers) and 71% (2012 producers) prior to participation in our educational program. The 2010 producers did reduce their deworming costs by 50% in the one-year follow-up, 14% in the two year follow-up and were deworming 6% more animals in the three year follow-up. This trend was very different for the 2011 producers. Only 40% of the animals on the farm were dewormed and in the one and two –year follow-up they reduced deworming costs by 5% and 20 % respectively. The 2012 producers, for which we only have one year of follow-up data, reduced deworming costs by 56% in the one-year follow-up.   These results are extrapolated from the results of surveys completed by 29% of 2010 producers, 58% of 2011 producers and 73% of 2012 producers.

Although we did not meet our performance target, we did reach the majority of the animals targeted, except for 2011 producers, there was at least a 50% reduction in deworming costs in the one-year follow-up. This number dropped in the 2010 producers with each subsequent year of follow-up, and improved in the 2011 producers. These results highlight the importance of continued reinforcement of best management practices and the gains that can be achieved.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Holly Burdett
  • Kristen Castrataro
  • Amy Howell
  • Dr. Daniel Hudson
  • Mark Huyler
  • Joyce Meader
  • Chet Parsons
  • Stephan Purdy
  • Jess Reed
  • Anne Zajac

Research

Materials and methods:

Materials and methods

Education/Outreach

 There were three primary components of this project targeting New England small ruminant producers:

  • Integrated Parasite Control/FAMACHA© Training Workshops      
  • Parasite control surveys
  • Farm visits
    • Evaluate the flock/herd for parasite infection
    • Determine the level of anthelmintic resistance on the farm
    • Identification of GIN species present on each farm

Parasite control workshops.

Parasite control workshops were held each year of the project (2010 – 2014). The workshops were primarily conducted by the Parasitologist on the project, Anne M. Zajac, DVM, PhD, from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine (Blacksburg, Virginia) or by the state coordinators. These workshops provided producers with the latest information and best management practices for whole farm parasite control.  Topics covered included an overview of small ruminant parasites, biology of important gastrointestinal parasites, dewormers and drug resistance, integrated parasite control practices, and the FAMACHA© system including a hands-on demonstration and training.  These workshops enabled participants to purchase a FAMACHA© card.  Folders containing the comprehensive parasite control survey and educational resources and guidance documents were developed and distributed to each participant.  On-going research updates were also presented. Due to producer interest and request, limited workshops on conducting fecal egg counts were also offered throughout the project.

In addition, one of the 2013 workshops was videotaped, edited and produced as a two- hour video entitled, Got Worms?  Improving Small Ruminant Parasite Control in New England. DVD copies were printed and distributed to project producers and their veterinarians in September 2013. In October 2014, two additional videos were produced to provide general information, step-by-step instructions and demonstration of FAMACHA© scoring and fecal egg counting. DVD copies were distributed to project producers and their veterinarians. Some of the original guidance documents on these topics were also revised into three fact sheets to accompany these videos.

Additionally, during 2014, a website was developed by URI personnel to house information and resources for this and other small ruminant parasite control projects. All videos and workshop resources are available at http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat. It was determined that videos and a website were needed in order to reach a larger number of producers who were unable to travel to a workshop; and that project participants needed continued reinforcement on the principles of integrated parasite control.    

Parasite Control Surveys.

An initial comprehensive survey was developed for small ruminant producers to identify their current (baseline) parasite control methods and concerns including: use of chemical dewormers and basis for deworming decisions, current grazing practices, current breeding and culling practices, the use of alternative and integrated parasite control practices such as the FAMACHA© system, and the costs associated with chemical deworming and animal mortality due to severe parasite infections. This survey was administered using SurveyMonkey.com in both on-line (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/gotworms2014) and hard copy formats, and was a required for those producers interested in participating in the farm visit portion of this project.

A brief follow-up survey was distributed each year to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes of those producers participating in the farm visits. This follow-up survey was conducted cumulatively (one year later; two years later; and three years later) after their farm visit.

Farm visits.

Small ruminant producers residing in CT, MA, RI and VT were eligible to participate in the farm visit program (2010 - 2012).   Limited farm visits were offered in 2013. Farm visits were conducted by university undergraduate students trained in all necessary procedures or by the project coordinators in each state.

The objectives of the farm visits were three fold:

  • Evaluate the flock/herd for parasite infection. At the first farm visit animals were evaluated for parasite infection which consisted of: weighing each animal, FAMACHA© scoring, Body Condition Scoring, and determining the presence or absence of diarrhea. A rectal fecal sample was collected to perform a fecal egg count test using the quantitative McMaster assay (Whitlock, 1948) followed by deworming on those animals suspected of harboring a significant parasite load as indicated by either an elevated FAMACHA© score (young animals ≥ 3; adults ≥ 4), low body condition score (BCS) and/or the presence of diarrhea. The producer provided current, properly stored anthelmintics for deworming. Dewormers were administered (drenches preferred) using the appropriate dosage (ACSRPC dewormer charts were provided) and following proper technique. A livestock scale was brought to each farm for accurate weight determinations for dosage calculations. The importance of tracking this information (FAMACHA©, BCS, diarrhea) every two weeks during parasite season was stressed to each producer. Reinforcement of proper FAMACHA© technique with the producer and templates for record keeping (paper and/or electronic) were provided at the farm visits and at the workshops.

  • Determine the level of anthelmintic resistance on the farm. For interested producers, the fecal egg count reduction test (FECR) was utilized to determine the degree of anthelmintic resistance to the dewormers currently in use on the farm by collecting fecal samples from and then immediately deworming at least 6 to 15 sheep/goats on the first farm visit. Ten to 14 days later, fecal samples were collected from all animals that were dewormed on the first farm visit. This follow-up FEC was used to determine the degree of parasite resistance present to the dewormer that was currently in use on the farm. To test the efficacy of a dewormer, there needed to be at least 6 animals with a FEC of >150 eggs/gram from the first farm visit.   If there were not at least 6 animals with a FEC of >150 on the first farm visit there was no need for a second farm visit as the results would be considered unreliable.  

  • Parasite identification. For each farm one composite fecal sample was prepared from all fecal samples collected.   A fecal culture was conducted using established procedures and the resulting larvae evaluated to identify the gastrointestinal nematodes present on each farm.

Producers were not charged for the farm visits. A detailed report of all farm visit results was sent to each producer with recommendations and notes where applicable.

Criteria to be met prior to first farm visit:

  1. All sheep and goats were to be individually identified, e.g., ear tag, neck chain.

  1. In order for the results to be reliable, farm visits could not occur until 6 to 8 weeks after any previous farm de-wormings.
  2. In order to facilitate the collection of rectal fecal samples, all animals were penned 2-3 hours prior to arrival of project personnel to give them time to settle.
  3. As all FAMACHA© scoring needed to be conducted in direct light (not in a barn), weather played a role in the visitation schedule. If the day was extremely dark it was necessary to reschedule the first farm visit. The weather did not affect the second visit as only fecal samples were taken.

  1. Anthelmintics

    1. Producers were required to have enough anthelmintic on hand to treat at least 50% of their animals.
    2. Liquid drenches were recommended.
    3. Anthelmintics used were dosed according to project protocol based on animal weight.
    4. Anthelmintics must have been properly stored and not have exceeded the expiration date.

 
Research Component

Part 1: Effect of vitamin E supplementation on an experimental Haemonchus contortus infection in Dorset lambs (De Wolf et al., 2014).

The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of vitamin E supplementation on an experimental H. contortus infection in Dorset lambs supplemented with either the minimal recommendation of vitamin E (5.3 IU/kg/day) or the recommendation for optimal immune function (10 IU/kg/day) (NRC, 2007). Twenty lambs were stratified into two treatment groups based on fecal egg count. Worm-free lambs, 28 to 32 weeks of age, were supplemented with vitamin E (d-α-tocopherol) for twelve weeks following the recommendations of the National Research Council for the minimum daily requirement (control; 5.3 IU/kg body weight (BW)/day (d), n=10) or the requirement for optimal immune function (VE10; 10 IU/kg BW/d, n = 10). Five weeks following initiation of vitamin E supplementation, lambs were infected with 10,000 H. contortus third stage larvae. Samples were taken weekly to quantify serum a-tocopherol, serum total non-specific immunoglobulin (Ig)G, whole worm antigen specific IgG, packed cell volume (PCV), and fecal egg count (FEC). Lambs were necropsied six weeks after infection and the a-tocopherol concentration of liver, muscle and lymph node were measured as well as abomasal worm burden and histologic evaluation of the abomasum for inflammation and enumeration of eosinophils and globule leukocytes.

Part 2: Anthelmintic effect of cranberry leaf powder (CLP) and proanthocyanidin (PAC) extract of cranberry leaf powder.

The ability to test the bioactive component (PAC) of cranberry leaves, which has been demonstrated to provide numerous health benefits in humans, provides us with a unique opportunity to test the extract in the absence of any other confounding substances that may be present in cranberry leaf powder. Testing the efficacy of cranberry leaf powder allowed us to determine efficacy in a product that can be produced much more economically. The evaluation of the anthelmintic properties of cranberry leaf powder and PAC extract of cranberry leaf powder occurred in three phases: 1) The in vitro phase utilized a HC egg hatch, larval and adult mortality and larval development assay and C. Elegans adult worm assay to determine efficacy of concept and establish a dose response curve for both the cranberry leaf powder as well as the PAC extract, 2) The in vivo larval development phase utilized a gerbil HC infection model to test the ability of PAC extract and cranberry leaf powder to eliminate parasites in a rodent animal model. 3) The in vivo lamb infection phase was used to assess the efficacy of cranberry leaf powder against HC parasite infection.

In Vitro Assays (Phase 1):

     1) Egg Hatch, Larval and Adult Mortality Assay: H. contortus eggs were exposed to varying concentrations of PAC extract (0.31, 0.63, 1.25 or 2.5 ug/mL), water or anthelmintic control for 48 hours. Percentage of hatched eggs was determined and larvae were classified as dead or alive, based on motility. Adult HC worms were obtained from the abomasums of lambs experimentally infected with HC. Adult worms were placed into scintillation vials and exposed to 300, 600 and 1200 ug/mL PAC, water or anthelmintic control. Viability was determined at 48 hrs.

     2) Larval Development Assay: Quantitative coproculture, using fresh fecal matter from lambs experimentally infected with H. contortus, was used to assess anthelmintic effect of PAC on H. contortus larval development. Varying concentrations of PAC (300, 600, 1200 ug/mL), water or anthelmintic control, were added to fresh feces obtained from lambs experimentally infected with H. contortus. After seven days of culture nematode larvae were collected and counted and percent inhibition of larval development was determined.

     3) Adult C. elegans Assay: Adult C. elegans worms grown in axenic medium were collected with sieves and exposed to varying concentrations of PAC extract (1, 5, 10, 20 and 25 mg/mL). Nematodes were examined after 24 hr incubation and classified as dead or alive based on motility. 

In Vivo Larval Development of HC in Gerbils (Phase 2):

Female Mongolian gerbils were used to test the anthelmintic effect of PAC extract on Haemonchus contortus infection. Six hundred exsheathed infective L3 larvae of Haemonchus contortus were orally administered to the gerbils. Cranberry PAC extract (200 mg) was orally administered at varying time points post-inoculation: Group 1 (0, 24, 48 hrs), Group 2 (0, 12, 24 hrs), Group 3 (0, 6, 12 hrs) and Group 4 (placebo – water). On day 9 post-inoculation, all gerbils were killed by CO2 inhalation, their stomachs removed and placed in a scintillation vial containing 14 ml distilled water. The scintillation vials will be transferred to a warm (37°) bath for 5 hrs after which 1 ml formaldehyde will be added. Worm burden will be quantified with a dissecting microscope. Percent clearance was determined by comparison of treated groups to the placebo.

In Vivo Effect of CLP on HC Infection in Lambs (Phase 3):

Two groups of 9 lambs were infected with H. contortus L3 larvae. After the infection matured, one group of lambs was dosed on three consecutive days with 26 grams of CLP, to approximate a concentration of 75 ug/mL PAC in the rumen contents. Fecal egg counts were determined weekly for four weeks.

References:

The effect of vitamin E supplementation on an experimental Haemonchus contortus infection in lambs. 2014. De Wolf, B.M.*, Zajac, A.M., Hoffer, K.A., Sartini, B.L., Bowderidge, S., LaRoith, T., Petersson, K.H. Vet Parasitol. 205:140-149.

Research results and discussion:

Milestone 1 (revised). Three hundred and sixty producers of sheep and/or goats will complete a comprehensive survey on their current methods, problems and costs associated with parasite control prior to participation in the farm visit portion of this project. A brief post-visit survey will be given to all participants during the winter following the visit to their farm. Key project personnel and the producer advisory council will use information from these surveys to further refine project and workshop topics. This will occur on an ongoing basis over the project period as producers are contacted. This milestone was modified based upon the recommendation of the SARE interview committee to require that all project participants complete a comprehensive survey prior to the first visit followed by a brief post-visit survey the following winter.

Comprehensive Survey

One hundred forth-four comprehensive surveys (40% of targeted number) were completed by small ruminant producers.

2010 – 47 (original survey)

2011 – 43 (revised version)

2012 – 41 (revised and shortened version)

2013 – 7 (revised, shortened version)

2014 – 6 (revised, shortened version)

Fourteen producers were workshop participants only and the remaining 130 participated in the farm visit portion of this project. Seven farms completed more than one comprehensive survey in different project years. Thirteen project farms did not complete the comprehensive survey.

Follow-up survey

Follow-up surveys were conducted with active producer farms each year during the winter months to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes. These follow-up surveys were conducted cumulatively (one year later; two years later; and three years later) after their farm visit. 

2011 parasite season follow-up survey:

  • Twelve out of forty-two 2010 participants participated (29% response rate).

2012 parasite season follow-up survey:

  • Eighteen out of forty-one active 2010 participants (44% response rate)
  • Twenty-five out of forty-three active 2011 participants (58% response rate)

2013 parasite season follow-up survey:

  • Eighteen out of forty-one active 2010 participants (44% response rate)
  • Eighteen out of forty-one active 2011 participants (44% response rate)
  • Thirty-two out of forty-four active 2012 participants (73% response rate)

Detailed follow-up and education were conducted with 12 producers that provided questions and comments on the follow-up surveys for the 2013 parasite season.  

The comprehensive producer survey was developed in June 2010 using SurveyMonkey.com and completed by 47 producers during year one (June – September 2010). In year two, the comprehensive producer survey was revised to remove open-ended questions that made quantification of answers difficult (June 2011). Problems occurred with the completion of the survey, which was required for farm visit participation. 1) The survey revision to remove open-ended questions resulted in a survey with more questions. Several MA producers complained about the length of the survey (less than 30 minutes to complete). To address concerns, hard copy surveys were provided and reviewed with producers at the workshops, giving producers more time to complete the survey prior to the farm visit. 2) An October 2010 workshop was held for RI producers to enable participation in a 2011 summer farm visit. However, when it came time for them to complete the survey and schedule a farm visit, too much time had passed and it was extremely difficult, despite repeated phone and e-mail contacts, to get the producers to complete the survey. Future workshops were planned for spring, closer to the summer farm visit season. 3) Some producers that went online to complete the survey did not answer all of the questions. Follow-up was conducted with these producers during the winter months. A total of 43 producers completed the survey during year two (April – December 2011).

In year 3, a follow-up survey was developed in SurveyMonkey.com and administered to the 2010 producer farms (January – March 2012) for the 2011 parasite season to evaluate changes in behavior and adoption of practices to date. The follow-up survey was administered both on-line and in hard copy format as needed. Twelve producers responded (29% response rate) and the preliminary results were summarized. Forty-one producers completed the comprehensive producer survey during year three (May through September 2012). The survey questions remained the same as year two however it was shortened to include only those sets of questions that pertained to the “previous” parasite season. The set of questions pertaining to the “current” parasite season were eliminated and it significantly shortened the survey. As a result, there were no complaints from producers on the length of the survey. Hard copies and postage paid return envelopes were provided as needed, which continued to improve survey completion as seen in year two.

During year four (2013) of this project, one major focus included follow-up with the 129 existing project producer farms (2010 – 2012). A follow-up survey was administered to all 2010 (41 active) and 2011 (43 active) participants for the 2012 parasite season to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes (February – April 2013). Eighteen producers from 2010 (44% response rate) and twenty-five producers from 2011 (58% response rate) completed the follow-up survey and the preliminary results were summarized. The follow up surveys along with other regular project follow up (fecal culture results sent to the 2012 producer farms), generated email and phone correspondence with some producers providing detailed information about their current herd/flock parasite status and seeking recommendations for management.

During 2014 (under a one-year, no-cost project extension) the focus continued to include follow-up with existing project producers. A follow-up survey was administered to all 2010 (41 active); 2011 (41 active) and 2012 (44 active) participants for the 2013 parasite season to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes (January – March 2013). Eighteen producers from 2010 (44% response rate); eighteen producers from 2011 (44% response rate) and thirty-two producers from 2012 (73% response rate) completed the follow-up survey. The results have been summarized and presented under Milestone 6. Detailed follow-up and education were conducted with 12 producers that provided questions and comments on this 2013 parasite season follow-up survey and many of them were directed to the educational materials developed as part of this project (see Milestone 4).    

Workshops and the farm visit portion of this project were targeted for years 1 through 3; however, project staff and students at URI, UCONN, and Virginia Tech did conduct some limited workshops and farm visits during 2013 and 2014 which resulted in 13 additional producers completing the comprehensive survey (7-2013 and 6-2014).

Milestone 2. Research conducted at the University of Rhode Island will determine whether the currently recommended vitamin E supplementation has a detrimental effect on parasite resistance in sheep. Results will be presented to a wide audience (producers, extension agents, researchers) at regional and national meetings, published on extension sheets, summarized in agricultural publications and in scientific journals.

Oral supplementation with d-a-tocopherol at 10 IU/kg BW/day resulted in a lower worm burden (Figure 1) and PCVR and a tendency towards lower FEC (Figure 2) than control lambs receiving 5.3 IU/kg BW/day. Additionally, there was a strong negative correlation between worm burden and inflammatory cell response in VE10 lambs that was not measured in control lambs. No differences were observed in serum, muscle or lymph node α-tocopherol concentration, serum IgG between control and VE10 lambs Taken together, the findings from this study suggest a modest benefit to the supplementation of vitamin E at levels currently recommended by the NRC that could be attributed to vitamin E’s interactions with the response of inflammatory cells. Whether the increased cost of supplementation would be offset by modest improvements to the overall health and performance of the growing lamb remains to be determined.   Further studies into the mechanism of action of supplemental vitamin E on gastrointestinal parasite infections are warranted.

Milestone 3.   Research conducted at the University of Rhode Island and Virginia Tech will determine whether the bioactive component of cranberry leaves has efficacy as a natural anthelmintic in sheep. Results will be presented to a wide audience (producers, extension agents, researchers) at regional and national meetings, published on extension sheets, summarized in agricultural publications and in scientific journals.

In Vitro Assays (Phase 1):

   1) Egg Hatch, Larval and Adult Mortality Assay: Cranberry PAC did not inhibit egg hatch at any concentration tested however the larvae incubated with cranberry PAC at concentrations of 1.2 and 2.5 ug/mL resulted in >95% mortality of L1 larvae (Figure 3). Incubation of adult worms in cranberry PAC at concentrations of 300, 600 and 1200 ug/mL resulted in > 80% mortality at 300 ug/mL, 90% and 98% mortality at 600 and 1200 ug/mL cranberry PAC respectively (Figure 4). Furthermore, there was no difference in mortality between the 2 highest concentrations of PAC and the anthelmintic control, providing evidence of it’s potential utility as an anti-parasitic compound. 

   2) Larval Development Assay: Cranberry PAC inhibited larval development, using quantitative coproculture, 60% at 600 ug/mL as compared to the water control. Although 300 and 1200 ug/mL cranberry PAC inhibited larval development (~20 and 38% respectively), there was considerable variability within each treatment group. (Figure 5)

   3) Adult C. elegans Assay: At 1, 5, 10, 20 and 25 mg/mL the number of live adult C. elegans was reduced by 70%, 93%, 98%, 100% and 100% respectively. 

In Vivo Larval Development of HC in Gerbils (Phase 2): There was no significant difference between control and cranberry PAC treated Gerbils. 

In Vivo Effect of CLP on HC Infection in Lambs (Phase 3): There was a treatment over time effect of CLP on FEC in lambs experimentally infected with H. contortus; a modest decrease in FEC resulted for the first two weeks after CLP dosing. (Figure 6) 

In summary, cranberry leaf extract as well as cranberry leaf powder demonstrated anthelmintic activity. The results from these studies will provide a foundation for further studies investigating the potential utility of cranberry leaf powder as an anti-parasitic to treat gastrointestinal nematodes in sheep and goats.

Milestone 4. 900 (24%) producers will attend a workshop providing comprehensive education on parasite control. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to be trained in the use of the FAMACHA system, gain experience performing fecal egg counts and will be able to sign up for on-farm visits. Two workshops per project year will be offered in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont, one workshop per project year will be offered in Rhode Island beginning in April 2010. 

The targeted number of workshops to hold for this project was 18. In order to reach the targeted the number of producers we conducted many more workshops than originally anticipated. Thirty-nine (216% of target) workshops (9-CT, 5-RI, 10-MA, 13-VT, 1-NOFA NY, 1-NY Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium) were conducted with at least 400 participants. By the projects end we reached 44% of our original targeted number of producers.

2010: 8 workshops conducted, 71 participants

CT: 1 producer workshop – October 2010 (13); 1 veterinarian workshop – October 2010 (6)

RI:   3 producer workshops – July and October 2010 (~26); 1 veterinarian workshop – October 2010 (6)

VT: 2 producer workshops – June 2010 (~20)
 

2011: 14 workshops conducted; 106 participants

CT: 4 producer workshops including one on fecal egg counting – March, May, June 2011 (52)

MA: 4 producer workshops – March 2011 (16); 1 veterinarian workshop – March 2011 (4)

VT: 3 producer workshops – March 2011 (18); 2 veterinarian workshops – March 2011 (16)
 

2012: 9 workshops conducted; 90 participants

CT: 3 producer workshops – February, April, May 2012 (32)

RI: 1 producer workshop – July 2012 (8)

MA: 3 producer workshops – April 2012 (at least 8)

VT: 2 producer workshops – May 2012 (42)

 

2013: 3 workshops conducted, 52 participants

MA: 2 workshops – January and June 2013 (27). January 2013 workshop was videotaped and a DVD was produced and distributed to project producers (135) and their veterinarians (55) in September 2013.

NY NOFA Winter Conference: one workshop conducted including fecal egg counting – January 2013 (22 producers, 3 vets)

 

2014: 5 workshops conducted, 88 participants

VT: 4 workshops including two on fecal egg counting – May 2014 (39)

NY Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium: 1 producer workshop – October 2014 (49)

The intended start date of this project was May 2010 and a considerable amount of preliminary work was conducted to develop all of the education components in time for the 2010 summer parasite season despite a delay in funding and subcontracts to project partners. An advisory council, consisting of respected sheep and goat producers from all participating states, was formed and met for the first time in May 2010. At the first meeting of the Advisory Council, project partner Dr. Anne Zajac presented the principles of parasite control and conducted FAMACHA training and body condition scoring training. Two integrated parasite control / FAMACHA training workshops were conducted in VT (June 2010) and two were conducted in RI (July 2010). One IPC / FAMACHA training workshop was conducted in RI and one in CT during October 2010 to prepare producers for 2011 farm visits. In addition, one workshop was conducted in CT and one in RI during October 2010 for veterinarians interested in receiving training in small ruminant parasite control. These meetings were initiated because we strongly felt that we needed to provide continuing education opportunities to the region’s veterinarians to promote a consistent message of integrated parasite control to the regions small ruminant producers. Dr. Zajac conducted the workshops held for the veterinarians.

During spring 2011 (year two), eleven IPC / FAMACHA training workshops were conducted for producers (CT-4, MA-4, VT-3). In addition, the materials and resources needed to conduct a fecal egg counting training session were developed and one was conducted for interested producers in CT. Also, three veterinarian workshops (MA-1, VT-2) and the advisory council meeting were conducted.

During spring 2012 (year three), nine IPC / FAMACHA training workshops were conducted for producers (CT-3, MA-3, RI-1, VT-2) as well as the advisory council meeting. In addition, a more extensive packet of written materials and resources was developed to accompany the workshops and farm visits.

Workshops and the farm visit portion of this project were targeted for years 1 through 3; however, project staff and students at URI, UCONN, and Virginia Tech did conduct some limited workshops and farm visits during year four. Two of the three workshops conducted in 2013 were held in Dighton (Southeastern) MA in an effort to gain additional interest and participation from producers in this area. Another big focus of year four was the development and distribution of a two-hour project video, Got Worms? Improving Small Ruminant Parasite Control in New England. The January 2013 workshop in Dighton, MA was videotaped, edited and produced as a two-hour video in partnership with the URI Dept. Media and Technology Services. DVD copies were printed and distributed to project partners and participants (135 project producers and 55 associated veterinarians) in September 2013. This video provides project producers with a review and reinforcement of integrated parasite control knowledge and hands-on demonstration of FAMACHA© scoring. Another goal of this tool was to provide a viable alternative to attending a workshop. The preliminary video was shared with the four new CT producer farms in addition to the hands-on training they received during their summer 2013 farm visit. Project producers were also surveyed as to whether an on-line training program would be a welcomed and needed training format. Of the 123 producers with e-mail addresses, 27% responded to the survey and 97% of these producers responded YES.

During 2014 (under a one-year, no-cost project extension) the focus continued to be follow-up with existing project producers as well as the continued development of educational resources and events in an effort to reach a larger number of producers. Due to the high level of interest that VT producers have had in this project, four additional workshops (2-IPC / FAMACHA training and 2-Fecal Egg Counting) were conducted in two central VT locations during May 2014 and a total of 39 producers attended. In addition, an IPC / FAMACHA training workshop was conducted at the Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium in October 2014. Forty-nine producers received FAMACHA certification with as many as 57 producers attending some portion of the workshop.

Also during 2014, two additional videos were produced along with a small ruminant parasite control website (http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat), in a continued effort to reach a larger number of producers with easily accessible resources. The videos feature project partner, Dr. Anne Zajac, DVM, PhD, Parasitologist providing education and demonstration on FAMACHA scoring and Fecal Egg Counting (Why and How To Do FAMACHA Scoring; Why and How To Do Sheep and Goat Fecal Egg Counts). These videos can be viewed from the website or directly from the URI YouTube channel page (UniversityOfRI). In addition, DVD copies were printed and distributed to project partners and participants (135 project producers and 55 associated veterinarians) in October 2014. Some of the original guidance documents on these topics were also revised into three fact sheets to accompany these videos (Why and How To Do FAMACHA Scoring; Why Do Sheep and Goat Fecal Egg Counts; How To Do The Modified McMaster Fecal Egg Counting Procedure.) All of the project fact sheets, tools, and links to other resources are available on the URI website.    

Milestone 5. 365 (10%) producers will participate in two on-farm visits 10 to 14 days apart. Producers will gain hands-on experience in FAMACHA card scoring, body condition scoring and rectal fecal sampling. Analysis of samples obtained from these visits will provide farmers with information on the level of flock susceptibility to parasites, parasite identification and the degree of anthelmintic resistance on each farm to the de-wormer being used. Farm visits will occur during the summer of each project year.

Table 1 provides a summary of the producer farms and animals visited during this project. One hundred thirty-five project farms have participated in the farm visit portion of this project from 2010 – 2013 (CT–36, MA–21, RI–17, VT–61). Fifty-five farms met the criteria for a second visit 10-14 days after the first visit. In addition, 11 farms received repeat visits in subsequent years of the project. A total of 3,589 animals were evaluated (2,543 sheep, 1,021 goats, and 25 unspecified) and a total of 2,314 fecal egg counts and 131 fecal cultures were conducted as part of these farm visits. From 2010 – 2013, thirty Fecal Egg Count Reduction Tests have been conducted for the project farms; 16 (Benzimidoles), 3 (Nicotinics), 8 (Macrolides), 3 (Organic / herbal). On the majority of the farms tested anthelmintic resistance was detected (Figure 7).

In 2013, 4 project farms and 1 additional farm collected and sent 42 fecal samples to URI for fecal egg count analysis. In 2014, URI extended this service to all project farms and 2014 VT workshop participants resulting in 136 fecal egg counts being conducted for 10 producers (8 project farms and 2 workshop participants). 7 additional producers expressed interest but never sent samples. Comprehensive educational follow-up was conducted with all 15 producers, most of whom supplied FAMACHA scores and other animal information that allowed project staff to provide specific recommendations.

During the summer of 2010, considerable time was devoted to developing all of the materials and components needed to conduct farms visits which included: 1) Development of the comprehensive survey. 2) Planning and delivery of IPC / FAMACHA training workshops. 3) Development of the informational packets that were distributed to producers at farm visits. These materials included guidance on using and interpreting FAMACHA scores and fecal egg counts, sheep and goat dewormer charts and recommendations (ACSRPC.org), recordkeeping worksheets, and protocols for farm visits, shipping fecal samples, etc. A method for reporting back all farm visit results clearly and in a timely manner was also developed.  

Workshops were conducted in VT and RI during summer 2010, which along with completion of the comprehensive producer survey, enabled producers to participate in a farm visit during the first summer 2010. VT and CT had conducted previous IPC / FAMACHA training workshops during 2009 and producers that attended those recent past workshops and that completed the comprehensive survey were also eligible to participate in 2010 farm visits. Due to a delay in project funding, MA project partners were unable to conduct workshops and farm visits during the summer 2010 parasite season with the exception of the UMASS Hadley farm. Despite the delays in funding and project requirements, 42 producer farms participated in farm visits (CT – 11, MA – 1, RI – 8, VT – 22) from June through September 2010.

During the course of the summer, revisions were necessary in order to address problems that arose. A significant number of farms had very few animals or animals with very low fecal egg counts, therefore, these farms did not require a second visit. Problems occurred with shipment of fecal samples from VT and CT to the URI lab resulting in some samples being lost and the farms being revisited. Problems also occurred with student training and resulted in some FAMACHA scores being unreliable as well as some students not adequately training the producers in FAMACHA scoring and body condition scoring techniques. Due to the delay in funding, farm visits were conducted during the month of September that confounded fecal egg count results due to the effect of decreasing daylight and cooler night temperatures. Plans were made to avoid September farm visits in future years. It was determined that funding for additional student help at URI to efficiently analyze the large number of fecal samples (fecal egg counts and fecal cultures) would be needed.  

During year two (summer 2011) 43 new producer farms participated in the farm visit portion of this project (CT – 11, MA-9, RI-5, VT-18). Again, a large number of farms had very few animals or animals with very low fecal egg counts and did not require a second visit. During year one some producers were confused as to why they did not receive a second farm visit. This issue was clarified and emphasized with producers during year two. The problems encountered during year one with fecal sample shipping and training of students to properly conduct farm visits (FAMACHA scoring and body condition scoring) were successfully addressed. An intensive training session was conducted for students in June 2011. Funding for additional student help at URI to efficiently analyze the large number of fecal samples (fecal egg counts and fecal cultures) was secured.

During year three (summer 2012), 44 new producer farms participated in the farm visit portion of this project (CT–10, MA-10, RI-3, VT-21). Again, a large number of farms had very few animals or animals with very low fecal egg counts and did not require a second visit. Massachusetts producers became more engaged in this project during years two and three and plans to extend the farm visits for an additional summer were made to continue outreach and help with the development of a small ruminant producer network. Vermont continued to have an amazing network of small ruminant producers that demonstrated a high level of interest in this project. Plans were made to continue an outreach effort in Vermont for an additional summer if funding allowed. Another intensive training session was conducted for students in June 2012 to ensure that farm visits were conducted properly. As the parasite season doesn’t start until late June / early July through the end of August this poses problems for student workers devoting their summer to this project. Plans for year four included engaging some motivated small ruminant producer participants to conduct the farm visits for their state, though this was not pursued. Plans to develop and utilize a video of an integrated parasite control workshop were also made to begin to address the concerns that a limited number of producers are able to participate in a limited number of workshops and that milestones for the expected number of producer participants had not been met despite the overwhelming positive response to the workshops that had been conducted for this project to date.  

As stated in Milestone 4, workshops and the farm visit portion of this project were targeted for years 1 through 3; however, project staff and students at URI, UCONN, and Virginia Tech did conduct some limited workshops and farm visits during year four. Two of the three workshops conducted in 2013 were held in Dighton (Southeastern) MA in an effort to gain additional interest and participation from producers in this area. These workshops resulted in two new producer farms (1-MA, 1-RI) that completed the producer survey and farm visit portions of this project. Extensive outreach for the MA workshops and subsequent follow-up with the participants was conducted but did not result in the producer participation that was hoped for. UCONN also conducted outreach and farm visits, revisiting 5 existing producers (4-CT, 1-RI) and establishing four new CT producer farms.

A one-year no-cost extension was obtained in September 2013 that allowed for continued education and outreach activities with producers, as well as project assessment and verification of outcomes during 2014. Due to limited staff and funding, farm visits were not offered during this final project year. However; URI offered to all producer farm participants (135) and 2014 VT workshop participants to conduct fecal egg count analysis at no charge (June – August 2014). Producers were responsible for collecting the fecal samples and for shipping charges. URI provided a sample submission form and instructions for collecting and shipping the fecal samples. The results were turned around to producers within two to five days along with management recommendations for those producers who chose to provide additional animal information such as FAMACHA scores, body condition scores, date of last deworming, etc. Ten farms responded to this offer (2 farms sending more than one set of samples) and a total of 136 fecal samples were analyzed. Seven additional farms inquired with interest, but never sent any fecal samples. A significant amount of in-depth discussion and education on parasite management occurred with these producers.

Milestone 6 (revised). 360 (10%) small ruminant producers will reduce anthelmintic use by using the FAMACHAÓ system, BCS and FEC to selectively deworm those animals infected with parasites. (Yrs 2-3). The number of producers has been changed to reflect the final performance target.

Milestone 1 describes both the comprehensive and follow up surveys that were developed and administered to project participants throughout the duration of the project (2010 – 2014). The results of the follow up surveys are summarized below with regards to adoption of new parasite control practices and a reduction in anthelmintic use.

Project participants surveyed one year after participation (55% response rate)

69 producers with 1,531 sheep and 724 goats have responded to this follow up survey. 90% of sheep owners and 78% of goat owners raised offspring.

The majority of survey participants (82%) have instituted the following new practices since participating in this education program:

  • 67% FAMACHA scoring
  • 46% Body Condition Scoring
  • 32% Genetic Selection – breeding and culling decisions based on parasite susceptibility 

Project participants surveyed two years after participation (44% response rate) 

36 producers with 1203 sheep and 399 goats have responded to this follow up survey. 96% of sheep owners and 82% of goat owners raised offspring.

The majority of survey participants (85%) have instituted the following new practices since participating in this education program:

  • 72% FAMACHA scoring
  • 47% Body Condition Scoring
  • 28% Increased the height of plants being grazed
  • 25% Fecal Egg Counts; and Rotational Grazing

Project participants surveyed three years after participation (44% response rate)

18 producers with 538 sheep and 171 goats have responded to this follow up survey. 86% of sheep and goat owners raised offspring.

The majority of survey participants (94%) have instituted the following new practices since participating in this education program:

  • 72% FAMACHA scoring
  • 44% Body Condition Scoring
  • 28% Fecal Egg Counts; and Rotational Grazing

 Table 2 shows that there was a 43% reduction in the number of animals dewormed the parasite season following the initial year of participation of our project beneficiaries. Although there was evidence that producers continue to implement these new practices beyond the first parasite season after receiving education, this number dropped to a 27% reduction in deworming following the second parasite season after enrollment. This highlights the need for readily available resources that will reinforce best management practices of parasite control.

 Final discussion on education milestones (1, 4, 5, and 6):

While we did not meet milestone targets for the number of producers participating in the producer survey, farm visits and adopting parasite control practices that reduced anthelmintic use, we did approach the performance target for the number of animals (4,240) impacted and the percent reduction in anthelmintic use. Also, the percentage of producers indicating that they adopted new practices was high (82% or higher) which indicates that the education program was successful.

Detailed, one-on-one follow up revealed that the information is necessary and useful, and that it can’t be retained all at once – producers need continued reinforcement and follow-up. Multiple workshops were conducted throughout the duration of the project and while these workshops were highly successful with the regards to participant satisfaction, the number of participants was often limited due to lack of time and ability to travel. This then resulted in a limited number of participants that were eligible to participate in the comprehensive survey and farm visits.

We utilized the last two years of this project (including a one-year no-cost extension) to respond to producer needs of having on-line resources and videos that allow for continued reinforcement and for a larger producer-base to benefit from this education. Another approach includes attending those events, such as the Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium, or the Annual Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival that typically experience high producer turn-out. The one workshop conducted at the Cornell Sheep and Goat Symposium in October 2014 contained more producers than the four workshops conducted in VT during May 2014.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

As mentioned under the materials and methods section of this final report, this project had a significant outreach and education component that consisted of a comprehensive producer survey, workshops, farm visits and subsequent follow-up surveys for those active producers who had participated in the farm visits. The project also consisted of an advisory council consisting of respected sheep and goat producers from all participating states (RI, CT, MA, VT) which met and corresponded throughout the project. In addition, workshops were conducted for the region’s large animal veterinarians that were interested in receiving continuing education on best management practices for small ruminant parasite control. While this emphasis was not originally proposed, the feedback from participating veterinarians expressed support for the goals of the project and appreciated the value placed on including them in the planning and implementation of the project. In addition, producers participating in farm visits had the option of identifying their veterinarian (55 identified - some serving more than one project producer) and having a copy of farm visits results sent directly to them.

Outreach regarding the project, workshops and farm visits occurred through local and regional producer groups such as the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association, Extension programs and events, and through electronic newsletters and listservs. Years one and two of the project included the development and assembly of a project brochure, the comprehensive producer survey, the follow-up survey, fact sheets, guidance documents on using and interpreting FAMCHA scores and fecal egg count results, and references such as sheep and goat dewormer charts and recommendations provided by the American Consortium of Small Ruminant Parasite Control. These resources were provided to producers at workshops and farm visits and continued to be updated and refined as needed throughout the duration of the project.

In addition, one of the 2013 workshops was videotaped, edited and produced as a two hour video entitled, Got Worms?  Improving Small Ruminant Parasite Control in New England. DVD copies were printed and distributed to project producers and their veterinarians in September 2013. In October 2014, two additional videos were produced to provide demonstration and information on FAMACHA© scoring and fecal egg counting (Why and How To Do FAMACHA Scoring; Why and How To Do Sheep and Goat Fecal Egg Counts). DVD copies were again distributed to project producers and their veterinarians in October 2014. Some of the original guidance documents on these topics were also revised into three fact sheets to accompany these videos (Why and How To Do FAMACHA Scoring; Why Do Sheep and Goat Fecal Egg Counts; How To Do The Modified McMaster Fecal Egg Counting Procedure.) Also during 2014, a website was developed by URI to house information and resources for this and other small ruminant parasite control projects in the Northeast region. The videos and workshop resources are available at http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat. It was determined that videos and a website were needed in order to reach a larger number of producers who were unable or unwilling to travel to a workshop; and that current project participants needed continued reinforcement on the principles of integrated parasite control. Multiple workshops were conducted throughout the project (39 total), and while some workshops were well attended, the number of producers that attended (at least 400) did not meet the expected milestone and also affected the milestones for those producers expected to go on to complete a comprehensive survey and participate in a farm visit.

In 2013, project producers were surveyed as to whether an on-line training program would be a welcomed and needed training format; and of the 123 producers with e-mail addresses, 27% responded to the survey and 97% of these producers responded YES. One producer wrote, “This would be a very welcome addition to FAMACHA© training. Right now there are far too few workshops and it's very difficult to get a FAMACHA© card. I understand why the card is so tightly controlled, but there simply aren't enough workshops and too few people are able to get the necessary training.” In addition, an on-line assessment test was developed and beta-tested in 2014 to accompany the two-hour workshop video on integrated parasite control. One goat RI producer viewed the video and scored a 91.5% on the on-line assessment test (administered through SurveyMonkey). Email correspondence with the producer provided follow up on the results along with explanations on points for clarification. The assessment test also provided an opportunity for program evaluation. When asked about the use of the video and on-line assessment test as an alternative approach to attending a workshop on small ruminant integrated parasite control, this producer responded, “I thought the DVD was great! Anne Zajac, DVM, PhD is a wonderful speaker who is very easy to listen to and learn from. I also liked the fact that if I didn't understand something I could go back and listen again. I thought this was a great tool in learning about small ruminant parasites and FAMACHA©.” This producer also listed three pasture management practices and the use of the FAMACHA© system as practices that they plan to adopt or improve upon as a result of this education.

The follow up survey was administered to project producers (those having participated in a farm visit) each parasite season on a cumulative basis, starting one parasite season after the farm visit. This and other project follow up (fecal culture results, etc.) revealed that producers needed continued and in-depth education to reinforce the information presented at workshops and farm visits. For example, detailed follow-up and education were conducted with 12 producers that provided questions and comments on the 2013 parasite season follow-up survey and many of them were directed to certain chapters and sections of the 2013 workshop video for reinforcement and clarification, as well as written materials produced throughout the project. One 2012 VT producer provided the following comment on her follow-up survey (2013 parasite season), “Have the materials provided at the workshop easily available online for future reference / easy reminders as farmers keep trying to improve their system and integrate various of the new practices into our work.” The website was under development during 2014 and is now available, along with the videos, to provide educational resources on small ruminant parasite control to a wide audience.

No milestones

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Producers that participated in farm visits were required to attend a workshop and complete a comprehensive survey of their current parasite control practices, issues and costs, including those associated with deworming and animal loss. This help to set a baseline from which to compare follow-up survey information. Follow-up surveys were conducted with active producer farms each year during the winter months to monitor changes in behavior, practices adopted, and other outcomes. These follow-up surveys were conducted cumulatively (one year later; two years later; and three years later) after their farm visit. The surveys were detailed and appropriate for determining which new parasite control practices participants adopted as well as the extent to which they dewormed their animals both prior to and after their participation in the program. A lot of follow up was required on the part of project staff to clarify survey responses (both comprehensive and follow-up surveys) as well as to encourage completion of the surveys.

As described in Milestone 1, the comprehensive survey was revised in 2011 to remove open-ended questions that made quantification of answers difficult. This resulted in a survey with more questions and some producers (particularly in Massachusetts) complained that the survey was too long and redundant and may have served as a deterrent in project participation. The survey was then shortened in 2012 to include only those questions that pertained to the previous parasite season and removed the set of questions addressing the “current” parasite season. Due to a delay in project funding, there were some lapses in coordination with project partners and students in obtaining comprehensive surveys from all producers that participated in farm visits (13 farms did not complete the comprehensive survey). The comprehensive survey was administered in both on-line and hard copy formats (including an addressed, postage paid return envelope), to allow producers to complete the survey in the manner that best suited them.  

The surveys were developed in SurveyMonkey, a popular online tool. Follow up surveys were first conducted during the winter of 2012 for 2010 participants to survey them of their parasite control practices one year later (on the 2011 parasite season) after receiving education and a farm visit. This first year resulted in only a 29% response rate. In subsequent years, project staff first sent email announcements to project participants encouraging completion of the follow-up surveys on-line. A couple of weeks later, project staff mailed a hard copy of the survey with an addressed, postage paid return envelope to those participants who had not yet responded. A couple of weeks after that, project staff sent one more email reminder to those participants who had not yet responded. All of these contacts resulted in survey completion and the response rate rose to 58% for 2011 participants and 73% for 2012 participants. The response rate for those producers who were being surveyed a second or third year after their initial farm visit remained constant at 44%. The follow up surveys often yielded several comments (within the surveys) as well as separate phone calls or emails to project staff which involved a request for more information on parasite control practices specific to their farms; and/or to clarify or discuss project methods and delivery. This allowed for a lot of one on one discussion and exchange between project staff and participants which often lead to minor changes in project methods and the development of new materials and approaches for education delivery such as the development of a website and videos on this topic. This was a very positive outcome of the project and worth the considerable time devoted by project staff.

The immediate and future impacts of this project for small ruminant producers can best be summarized by this 2012 MA producer who stated in one follow up survey: “In spite of approaching my herd preventatively, I had a parasite blow-out in August and learned the importance of moving goats off their usual pasture during peak bloom seasons. Without the SARE study I would have lost at least one goat, possibly two. Body conditioning AND FAMACHA were a huge help as was proper dosing of available wormer options. This study helped educate my vet who was not strongly goat oriented. Though I did not breed for resistance last year, I am this year because of the lessons from last summer….Thank you for the study, advising me last summer and here's to future work!”

Small ruminant producers as well as secondary audiences such as Extension specialists, veterinarians and other ag. service providers will benefit from the three videos and website that were created as part of this project. The website houses the links to the videos (also available directly on YouTube) as well as the fact sheets, guidance documents, recordkeeping sheets and links to other resources that were developed and are contained on this website, http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat. More information about these resources are provided in the publications / outreach section of this report.  

The research portion of this project produced some interesting results that provide a strong foundation for the development of alternative non-chemical strategies for the control of gastrointestinal nematodes in small ruminants. Though further work needs to be conducted in both areas, the decreased worm burden observed in infected lambs dosed with the currently recommended amount of vitamin E provides small ruminant producers with the knowledge that the immune benefits observed historically with vitamin E supplementation may be applicable to parasitic nematode infections. The potential utility of cranberry leaf powder as an anthelmintic is encouraging and will hopefully provide producers with a viable, regionally produced, alternative to chemical anthelmintics.

Farmer Adoption

Overall, producer response to this education program was positive and 82% of the producers responding to the follow up survey (55% response rate) one year after receiving education and farm visits adopted new parasite control practices. The adoption rate went up to 85% (44% response rate) and 94% (44% response rate) of producers surveyed two and three years later, respectively.   Anthelmintic use dropped by at least 50% at the one year follow-up in producers joining the project in years 2010 and 2012. Producers in 2011 only dewormed 40% of their animals prior to enrolling in this project and continued to improve upon this for the remainder of the study.

The follow up surveys provided ample opportunity for producers to provide comments and constructive suggestions. A significant amount of personal communication also occurred between project producers and staff through phone and email contact due to farm visit and fecal egg count results follow up, clarification of survey responses and continued questions to project staff on parasite management.

With regards to the comprehensive survey, some producers considered the original survey to be too long and repetitive and that it may have served as a deterrent in program participation. The survey was shortened in 2012 in response to concerns. With regards to the farm visits and protocols, some producers were concerned that for sheep, obtaining a scale to weigh each animal may not be practical or realistic and that many producers will estimate animal weights. Some producers were also concerned and confused as to why a second farm visit 10 to 14 days after the first farm visit was not warranted. This 2012 CT producer writes in her follow up survey, “I thought the program was very good. My only problem is that my flock is so small and had to deworm only 2 that there was no further visit / follow up. I would have liked further farm visits and testing.”

Survey results and personal communication indicate that FAMACHA scoring is not often conducted every two weeks as recommended during peak parasite season, however, producers still utilized it and improved upon it and this practice was the most widely adopted by project participants. Overall, producers needed continued follow up and reinforcement beyond one workshop and one or two farm visits. The following are producer comments from follow up surveys.

2010 VT producer: It was a great plan. For someone like me a small farmer it was a good learning experience and also a way to find if my deworming was effective. It showed some details on the fecal results that I did not pay attention to (barber pole worm) in one of my goats. The next summer I lost 4 goats to the worm. I feel if I had paid attention and culled the buck, maybe things would have been different. Hope a refresher could be in the future..? Thanks

2011 MA producer: Perhaps at future seminars ideas can be shared about where and how to purchase good weighing equipment. When my goats were small, we could weigh them by picking them up and weigh them on a household scale. In your program, the students came out with a walk on scale, that as small farmers wouldn't have the need to purchase such an expensive item. We did purchase a nice hanging type sling to lift the goat. It was from Premier One. Although we body score getting actual weights seasonally, I find it helpful in my small herd management practices.

2012 CT producer: “So .... {regarding} worming before lambing. We don't do this --- do you strongly recommend it? I feel that we learned a lot from your efforts and continue to learn every week. Thanks”

This 2012 CT producer was directed back to the written materials and integrated parasite control video (of which he had a DVD copy) to review the information presented on this topic.

The following producers expressed their overall satisfaction and support for the program:

2011 VT producer – “Keep up the good work! Getting this information to as many producers as possible is imperative!”

2012 CT producer – “I think the SARE project/grant was terrific. I learned a lot. I wish it would continue.”

One RI producer who did not participate in this project as a workshop and farm visit participant viewed the video on integrated parasite control and took the on-line assessment test (2014). Her comments on this approach are listed in the outreach / publications section of this report. The following are her comments regarding this opportunity: “Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. I have learned so much and been corrected on so many practices I was taught that were wrong. This is going to make such a difference in my ability to care for my herd. I am very grateful.”       

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

With regards to the educational components in this project, it has been mentioned throughout this report and especially emphasized within certain sections of this report (Impact of results / outcomes; Publications / outreach; Farmer adoption) that small ruminant producers, overall, are receptive and eager for information and training on integrated parasite control practices and programs. A large majority of small ruminant producers in New England have successfully adopted parasite control practices as a result of this project, however, they 1) need continued support and reinforcement of the information and techniques being prescribed and 2) they need resources and training to be easily accessible and more widely available in addition to workshops and farm visits which are limited.

We began to address these issues and lay the foundation for an on-line training program and development of a website (http://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat). Fact sheets, guidance documents, the project videos and other resources that were developed and/or assembled as part of this project and others have been uploaded to the website. We now need to develop and refine an outreach and on-line training program which includes continued development and maintenance of the website, administering an on-line knowledge assessment test, and using Skype or similar live video assessment methods to evaluate producer FAMACHA© scoring techniques for those producers who wish to receive FAMACHA© certification and eligibility to purchase FAMACHA© cards. As already mentioned in this report, project producers were surveyed in 2013 as to whether an on-line training program would be a welcomed and needed training format; and of the 123 producers with e-mail addresses, 27% responded to the survey and 97% of these producers responded YES. One VT producer qualified her response as follows: “YES! Your approach is a very sound proposal and I vote YES. [Goat Enterprise] of which I am the managing partner will have several [production] farms in VT…We welcome the opportunity for our farmers to be fully vetted in this vital process. I have actually required a FAMACHA© training as a part of our Standards for Raising and Production Protocols.

Another area needing additional study and continued education is to emphasize selective breeding and using tools such as the FAMACHA© system and fecal egg counts to assist with selective breeding decisions. Again, the two project videos developed in 2014 on these topics have laid the foundation for continued education, training and emphasis on this issue but they alone will not suffice. Small ruminant producers need additional tools and programs to help them with the theory and practice of genetic selection. The National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) is one such program that will help facilitate adoption of sound breeding practices based upon the generation of estimated breeding values of for traits of interest and value, including parasite resistance.

Finally, further research and development of alternative anthelmintics for small ruminant producers will provide producers with additional tools for their integrated parasite control program. First and foremost, the development of an efficacious cranberry pellet is only a few years down the road if additional funding for this area of research is secured.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.