Expanding Opportunities for Sustainable Management of Small Ruminant Gastrointestinal Parasites

Progress report for LNE19-381

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $242,071.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Rhode Island
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
Project Leader:
Katherine Petersson
University of Rhode Island
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Project Information

Performance Target:

Four hundred small ruminant (SR) producers, who have reported problems with parasites in the past five years, will introduce or improve integrated parasite management practices including genetic selection for resistance. These behaviors will result in reduced death and productivity losses totaling $428,750.

Introduction:

Problem and Justification:
Gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) are associated with increased mortality and reduced performance of small ruminants (SR) in pasture-based operations. In addition, females are more susceptible to GIN during the periparturient period (late gestation to early lactation) because of immune suppression. Producers struggle to control GIN in lambs and periparturient ewes because of increasing parasite resistance to commercial dewormers, a lack of effective alternatives to anthelmintics, and, in most cases, an inability to accurately identify individuals that are genetically less susceptible to infection. Effective tools for parasite control exist; the challenge is making these techniques widely available.

Solution and Approach:
The primary beneficiaries of this project are northeastern producers concerned about the deleterious effects of GIN infections in their sheep and goats. We will update and condense the existing videos of our existing online IPM/FAMACHA© certification program (LNE15-342) and then transcribe and translate the program into Spanish, thereby increasing access to this material by a more culturally diverse audience. We will develop a facilitated group format for producers who struggle with or have limited internet access. A group-based format will also allow us to offer this program to extension and youth groups as well as classes of agriculture, veterinary and veterinary technician students.

We will continue to offer workshops with a focus on selective breeding through the use of the estimated breeding values (EBV) for parasite resistance. Producers will be introduced to the benefits of enrolling in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and supported with fecal egg count (FEC) analyses. Furthermore, development of a FAMACHA© EBV, in addition to the existing FEC EBV will provide NSIP producers another
tool for selecting stock with improved natural resistance to GIN. Ultimately, a multiple-trait selection index that includes multiple GIN resistance traits as well as other economically important traits will be developed for pasture-based sheep operations enabling NSIP producers to select replacement animals that excel in traits affecting health and production simultaneously.

Our research investigating the anti-parasitic potential of cranberry vine (CV) to control GIN in lambs began with LNE10-300 and continues with LNE15-342. We will extrapolate results found in lamb studies to evaluate the anthelmintic efficacy of feeding CV to periparturient ewes, a challenging period for producers to manage. If this proves to be a viable strategy for managing periparturient GIN infections, this would be a valuable tool for producers to have in their IPM toolkit.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Anne Zajac
  • Holly Burdett
  • Melanie Barkley
  • Reid Redden
  • Dr. Tom Murphy
  • Elizabeth Kass
  • Dr. Roger Ramirez-Barrios

Research

Hypothesis:

Hypothesis 1: The inclusion of dried cranberry vine into the diet of periparturient ewes will enhance ewe and lamb performance and health indicators.
Objectives:
1) Determine the anti-parasitic potential of CV feeding on periparturient ewes.
2) Determine the utility of CVP fed to periparturient ewes on producer farms.

Hypothesis 2: A selection index containing GIN indicator and production traits will identify profitable sheep for pasture-based systems.
Objectives:
3) Analyze historical data to estimate genetic and non-genetic parameters of and between GIN indicator and production traits.
4) Derive economic values of traits and develop a multiple-trait selection index.

Materials and methods:

In 2019 a pelleted 50% cranberry vine supplement was produced that was used in the feeding trial of periparturient ewes during the winter of 2020 through early spring.  Four weeks (-4) prior to parturition (0) ewes were assigned to treatment groups and fed 1.4 kg of a 50% CV pellet per ewe per day (n=12) or control (n=12) from -4 through 8 weeks of lactation. Weekly FEC and FAMACHA© anemia scores were determined.  Packed cell volume (PCV) was determined at -8, -4, 0, 2, 4, 6 and 8 to monitor for anemia. Milk samples were obtained at birth and every two weeks through eight weeks of lactation for compositional analysis and somatic cell count (SCC). Lambs were monitored weekly for growth. 

During the summer of 2020, due to travel and labor restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic we were unable to collect more cranberry vine generate another batch of 50% cranberry vine supplement.  As there was leftover pellet from the previous trial the decision was made to repeat the trial during the winter and early spring of 2021 using the same pellet and study design as described above. 

Research results and discussion:

Due to the poor nutritional quality of the cranberry vine it was difficult to formulate a supplemental pellet comprised of 50% cranberry vine that was nutritionally on par with the control pellet.  The pellet that was used for these two studies was similar in digestible dry matter but this caused imbalances in the protein content that was reflected in the milk urea nitrogen content of the lactating ewes.   Furthermore, we have found the cranberry vine to be unacceptably high in copper content necessitating remedial measures to bind the copper, as at elevated levels it can be toxic to sheep.  There was limited success in binding the copper in the cranberry vine pellet used in these two studies.  This pellet did not pose a problem for these sheep but it was still unacceptably high in copper.  We have therefore reformulated the supplemental pellet and will feed periparturient ewes during the winter of 2022 a 50% pellet that will contain lower levels of copper and with a nutritional profile more closely matching that of the control pellet using a similar design to the previous two trials.  Preliminary data from the first two trials indicate that there was no dramatic effect of CV supplementation on FEC however further analysis of all data has been complicated and is still ongoing.  

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

The existing online IPM/FAMACHA© Certification program videos will be updated and condensed, and a Spanish language version created to increase access by a more culturally diverse audience. We will develop a facilitated group format for producers with limited internet access, technology challenges and that prefer group workshop learning; as well as for students in agricultural and veterinary school classes.  

We will continue to offer workshops with a focus on selective breeding through the use of the estimated breeding values (EBV) for parasite resistance. Producers will be introduced to the benefits of enrolling in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and supported with fecal egg count (FEC) analyses. Furthermore, development of a FAMACHA© EBV, in addition to the existing FEC EBV will provide NSIP producers another tool for selecting stock with improved natural resistance to GIN. Ultimately, a multiple-trait selection index that includes multiple GIN resistance traits as well as other economically important traits will be developed for pasture-based sheep operations enabling NSIP producers to select replacement animals that excel in traits affecting health and production simultaneously.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 1: 5000 producers will receive an invitation to complete an online survey of current parasite control practices (12/31/2019). 200 producers complete online survey (04/30/20).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
200
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
221
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2020
Accomplishments:

This milestone has been met.  A Northeast region online parasite control needs assessment survey was developed and administered May through December 2020 to continue to monitor and assess parasite control concerns, priorities, and practices.  Two hundred forty-four (244) small ruminant producers completed section 1 (demographics) with 221 (90.5%) completing the entire survey.  Ninety-four percent (94%) of respondents came from Northeast states (DE, MD, NJ, PA, New England, NY, WV) or surrounding states that receive direct outreach through organizational email lists and Facebook posts (KY, NC, OH, TN, and VA).  A snapshot of producers reached through email lists, Facebook posts, and other organization website views following concerted outreach conducted May – June 2020 for this survey is 5,072 reached.  We expect these numbers to be much higher including Facebook posts and listserv announcements from other small ruminant organizations in which we did not have access to the number of people reached.  We also conducted a widespread reminder in September 2020.    

A summary of the survey results was developed and shared on the project website.  Overall, the majority of respondents confirmed that internal parasites are a common or endemic health condition and the number one most costly management issue.  The majority of respondents have had problems with the barber pole worm (H. contortus) or other GI worms with nearly half indicating that they lost animals to this in the last five years. 

 

 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 2: 5000 producers learn about the major components of the integrated parasite control program (IPM) each spring of the project – (4/30/20), (4/30/21), (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
5000
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
11917
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

This milestone has been met for YR 2 and YR3. Outreach for various on-going projects throughout the year was conducted. During 2020 and 2021 concentrated outreach was conducted to target producers regarding the Fecal Egg Count Analysis opportunity and follow-up surveys were conducted to assess current and planned parasite control practices. A snapshot of producers reached through email lists, Facebook posts and other organization website views during YR 3 is 6,467, an increase from participants reached in YR 2 (5,450). We expect these numbers to be higher as we do not have access to the number of people reached through shared social media or forwarded listservs.

Outreach for the Online FAMACHA© Certification Program occurs regularly throughout the year. The online format of the FAMACHA© Certification Program has been highlighted in both YR2 and 3 through small ruminant organizations being highlighted as a virtual, online resource available to producers during COVID-19.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 3: 100 producers register for workshops (5/31/20). 90 producers attend workshops (5/31/20).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
90
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
91
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 11, 2021
Accomplishments:

A traditional, in-person workshop series on the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and Integrated Parasite Management was originally planned for fall 2020.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, an alternative virtual 3-night workshop series consisting of pre-recorded informational videos and live Zoom sessions was scheduled for January 2021 and was repeated February 2021 to allow for maximum participation.  Eight (8) short videos (approximately 15 minutes each) were developed and uploaded to the URI Cooperative Extension YouTube page for participants to prepare for the live Zoom workshop series included break-out sessions working through real-world examples of genetic selection using NSIP tools with an emphasis on parasite resistance. 

Outreach began in December 2020 in YR2 and 179 producers registered for workshops with a total of 91 producers attending either series of the NSIP Virtual Workshops in YR3.

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 4: 20 non- NSIP producers and 20 new/current NSIP producers will sign-up to submit samples for FEC analyses each parasite season of the project (10/31/20), (10/31/21), (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
40
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

This milestone was partially met by YR2 (ending 10/31/20), was fully met for YR3 (ending 10/31/21).  In YR2 twenty-three (23) producers signed up (11 NSIP Producers) with 20 producers (10 NSIP producers) participating in the FEC analysis, a total of 1,303 samples were analyzed. Thirty (30) interested producers requested detailed information on the program, but shipping costs and labor needed to collect fecal samples during the busiest time of year (peak summer growing season) posed challenges. In YR 3 Sixty-eight (68) producers registered (24 NSIP Producers) to submit samples for FEC analyses. Twenty-one (21) non-NSIP and one (1) NSIP member/s did not meet the program requirements and were ineligible to participate. Twenty-seven (27) producers (20 NSIP Producers) participated in the program submitting a total of 1,317 samples were received and analyzed. The registered number of participants has more than doubled since YR2, we expect this trend to continue through the remainder of this project.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 5: 120 producers and 3 producer groups register for online training (12/31/20). 90 producers and 2 producer groups complete online training (12/31/20).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
90
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
89
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2020
Accomplishments:

This milestone was nearly met for participants completing the training (89), and it was exceeded for participants registering for the training (159).  Since the completion of LNE15-341 (October 31, 2019), 134 new participants have started the training with 86 completing it as of January 1, 2021.  In addition, 3 participants who started the training in a prior reporting year completed it during this year for a total of 137 online trainings initiated and 89 completed for YR2.  These numbers do not include an additional 12 participants who have watched the required videos and requested the link to the post video summary but have not completed it to date; and 13 agricultural high school students who began the training but were unable to complete it due to COVID-19 school closures and restrictions.  

With regards to group facilitated trainings: 2 group trainings with Cornell Cooperative Extension were planned for May and September 2020 but were cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.  A CT agricultural senior high school class was in progress with the training during March 2019 but was unable to complete the FAMACHA© scoring demonstration video portion due to school closure to in-person learning.  A different teacher from the same high school initiated the training this past October 2020, however, the hybrid schedule of in-person and distance learning posed challenges with access to the school’s animals as well as a cohesive class approach.  In the end, students were given the option to complete the training on their own if desired, but it was not conducted as part of a teacher facilitated group class.  Out of 6 students initiating the training, 3 completed it and are included in the individual reporting numbers.  There was interest from a total of 12 people/groups regarding group facilitated classes and many were not pursued due to COVID-19 restrictions.  However; one agricultural high school teacher from North Carolina is planning to move forward in February 2021 with a group class of 14 animal science students.  Another new request in early January 2021 from Careerline Tech Center in Michigan plans to take a total of 70 junior and senior high school students through the training by March 2021.  The group facilitated approach takes an already online, virtual training program and brings it to a traditional in-person format for the purposes of assisting underserved producers with technology resources (internet or technology know-how); or providing agricultural high school and college classes with animals and guidance from a trained facilitator.  This group facilitated approach may not be available to some interested parties until COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed. 

Prior to April 2020, this was the first and only Online FAMACHA© Certification program in the U.S.  Due to COVID-19, three universities (mid-Atlantic and southeast U.S.) developed two online FAMACHA© certification training programs that are modeled after the URI program.  This was prompted by an effort to transform and conduct traditional in-person workshops that were scheduled for April and May 2020 to a virtual format in direct response to COVID-19 restrictions.  Despite the development of similar online training programs, we still receive many requests for participation and/or more information from around the region, country and world.  This online training program results in several email consultations and requests for general information about the FAMACHA© system.  It should be noted that the webpage housing the online training program instructions received 9,052 unique page views (85.6% U.S.) from November 1, 2019 - October 31, 2020 which is one year after completing the former LNE15-342 project that tracked this information through October 31, 2019.

 

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 6: 150 producers respond to follow-up surveys on: 1) IPM practices and impact after attending IPM or NSIP workshops, 2) Successes and/or challenges associated with generation of EBVs (4/30/21).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
316
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

Online follow-up surveys were conducted with YR 2 program participants beginning winter 2021 to track program effectiveness and practices planned, improved and adopted as a result of this project. 

An optional program evaluation conducted at the end of the online FAMACHA© training post video assessment indicated the following from November 1, 2019 – December 20, 2020:

113 producers indicated plans to adopt at least one practice as follows:

  • 77% FAMACHA scoring
  • 63% FEC
  • 50% Targeted selective deworming
  • 49% Genetic Selection – select animals with resistance to parasites
  • 47% Genetic Selection – cull animals highly susceptible to parasites
  • 43% Maintain a minimum 4-inch pasture forage height
  • 42% Implement new pasture management strategies
  • 42% Plant a forage containing condensed tannins

This Milestone was met for YR 3, 316 unique participants responded to follow-up surveys on integrated parasite management practices (IPM), the impact of IPM practices after attending workshops and successes and/or challenges associated with the generation of estimated breeding values (EBVs). Follow-up surveys indicate producers already utilize IPM such as FAMACHA scoring and targeted selective deworming and plan to adopt additional IPM techniques such as, fecal egg counts, deworming and quarantining new animals, EBVs and utilizing genetic selection in breeding/culling decisions. From the NSIP virtual 2021 workshops participants that completed the follow-up survey (19), 63.15% indicated their knowledge about the purpose and use of EBVs for economically important traits increased a considerable amount. 52.63% of participants indicated that their knowledge about the use of fecal egg counts in generating EBVs for parasite resistance increased a considerable amount. Participants stated how useful EBVs have been for selecting replacement animals, improving a variety of traits in their flock and especially utilizing the FEC EBV to improve parasite resistance.

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 7: 125 producers register for workshops (5/31/21). 90 producers attend workshops (5/31/21).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
90
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
91
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 19, 2021
Accomplishments:

A traditional, in-person workshop series on the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and Integrated Parasite Management was originally planned for fall 2020. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, an alternative virtual 3-night workshop series consisting of pre-recorded informational videos and live Zoom sessions was scheduled for January and February 2021. Eight (8) short videos (approximately 15 minutes each) were developed and uploaded to the URI Cooperative Extension YouTube page for participants to prepare for the live Zoom workshop series. The workshop included break-out sessions working through real-world examples of genetic selection using NSIP tools with an emphasis on parasite resistance. Links to the videos and registration information is available on the project webpage, https://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat/nsipworkshops/. Outreach began in December 2020, 179 producers registered for the workshop with a total of 91 producers attending one series of the NSIP Virtual Workshop.

 

 

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 8: 160 producers and 4 producer groups register for online training (12/31/21). 120 producers and 3 producer groups complete online training (12/31/21).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
120
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
175
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

This milestone was met for YR3. 175 participants and four (4) producer groups registered for the online training program, 133 participants and three (3) producer groups completed the training. There has been continuous interest in the facilitated online group trainings, with three (3) producer groups planning on participating in the facilitated online group training in the spring of 2022. Completion of the online facilitated training program in YR3 has been achieved by three (3) agricultural high schools, resulting in the certification of 86 high school participants. We experienced delays in launching the new English format of the online training program until December 2021. The new formatted program consists of four (4) short videos (approximately 15 minutes each) and an instantaneous post-video assessment available to participants. With the launch of the reformatted online program, we expect the participation of individual producers and facilitated group classes to increase throughout the remainder of this project. Links to the online training videos and post-video assessment is available on the project webpage, https://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat/famacha/.

Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 9: 125 producers register for workshops (10/31/22). 120 producers attend workshops (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
120
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 10: 120 producers and 3 producer groups register for online training (10/31/22). 90 producers and 2 producer groups complete online training (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
90
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #11 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 11: The project team will be in direct communication via email or phone with project participants. Thirty new or current NSIP producers will generate FEC EBV for their animals that will be shared with project staff (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

As of December 2021, 20 NSIP producers conducted FEC analysis as part of the project supported opportunity in Milestone 4. A total of 1,317 samples were analyzed. Follow-up will be conducted with these producers to monitor progress with the generation of FEC EBVs.

 

Milestone #12 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Milestone 12: 250 producers respond to follow-up surveys on: 1) IPM practices and impact after attending IPM or NSIP workshops, 2) Successes and/or challenges associated with generation of EBVs (10/31/22).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
250
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

176 Consultations
12 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
133 Online trainings
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Other educational activities: Maintain and update project website (https://web.uri.edu/sheepngoat/);
FEC analysis: 1,317 fecal samples were analyzed for internal parasite eggs and producers received results (some of these animals were sampled twice).

Participation Summary:

399 Farmers

Learning Outcomes

263 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

An optional program evaluation is administered at the end of the online post video assessment.  From November 1, 2019 through December 20, 2021, 263 participants indicated an increase in knowledge in one or more topics including:  Gastrointestinal Nematode (GIN) worm biology and life cycle; History and development of dewormer drug resistance; Pasture management techniques to avoid GIN worm exposure; Information about sheep and goat immunity to GIN worms; Smart dewormer use and drug alternatives; and The FAMACHA© System.  Knowledge of participates increased (58) increased 79.45% regarding the FAMACHA© System, 63.51% regarding history/development of drug resistance and 60.81% regarding pasture management techniques to minimize GIN exposure.

An in-person workshop on small ruminant parasite control was conducted for RI 4H youth and their families (34 youth and 30 adults), February 2020.  Twenty-eight (28) youth completed a post workshop evaluation:  100% of respondents indicated that they gained new knowledge and will apply the new skills they learned; and 93% will use the information to make future decisions.

 

Information Products

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.