Assessment of a Composite Herbal Feed Additive on Reducing Haemonchus contortus in a Dual Purpose Sheep Operation

Final report for ONE21-399

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,319.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Fork You Farms, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Dr. Erin Masur, DVM
Fork You Farms, LLC
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Project Information

Summary:

The main objective of this study was to prove that Early Bird could reduce gastrointestinal nematode prevalence, specifically Haemonchus contortus, in a dual-purpose sheep operation. The secondary objective of this study was to prove that Early Bird can increase the meat and fiber productivity of small ruminant and camelid operations by supporting a healthy body condition despite parasite burden. In other words, the use of Early Bird can result in decreased mortality and decreased morbidity related to parasite infection.

 Interestingly, our query met the main objective in both Icelandic groups, but failed to meet the main objective in both Dorper groups. In both the low-shedding and high-shedding Dorper groups, treatment resulted in an increase in eggs per gram of Haemonchus, as well as an increase in animals positively identified as carrying Haemonchus (Table 1). Despite these findings, both Dorper groups still experienced an increase in body condition and a decrease in FAMACHA scores, which meet the secondary objective (Table 1). By comparison, both low-shedding and high-shedding Icelandic groups experienced reduced prevalence of Haemonchus contortus (Table 2). The high-shedding group of Icelandics also experienced a significant decrease in average eggs per gram of strongyles from 3565 to 1671 throughout the group. Both Icelandic groups experienced an increase in body condition scores and decrease in FAMACHA scores - favorable results (Table 2). 

Project Objectives:

This project seeks to prove that the multidimensional herbal formula (known as Early Bird) used in a previous project can successfully prevent gastrointestinal nematode propagation, including Haemonchus contortus, in a clinically affected sheep herd, using advanced diagnostics. Colleagues who have reviewed results of the previous project have recommended that a second project be performed with these changes in order to define the limits of the product. This project will help veterinarians develop protocols for the usage of the product, and help farmers determine its worth to their specific operations. Depending on the scope of efficacy, the product will increase the meat, fiber, and dairy productivity of small ruminant and camelid operations by diminishing overall parasite burden. When dealing with parasite morbidity, these operations can expect decreased losses and less intensive nursing care of individuals when using this product. 

Introduction:

Previous discussions in related literature discuss that gastrointestinal nematodes are the most significant detriment to small ruminant and camelids operations both within the United States and globally. Haemonchus contortus, a particularly lethal nematode, enjoys a 79% prevalance on sheep and goat farms throughout the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States (Crook, 2016), and prevalence between 90-100% throughout various countries of Southeast Asia (Gray, 2004). Haemonchus contortus survives particularly well on pasture, and is projected to enjoy increased survivability as the climate continues to change (Kaplan, 2017). Drug resistance continues to plague the dewormer market, and regionally speaking, the six dewormers available in the United States have resistance rates from 24% (levamisole) to 100% (benzimidazoles) in the Mid-Atlantic (Crook, 2016 and Kotze, 2016). The principal investigator, Dr. Masur, developed an herbal parasite management product in collaboration with Dr. Tsakiris, that proved effective against multiple species of gastrointestinal nematodes including Haemonchus, during a study conducted in 2020 funded by the Northeast SARE. This product represents an excellent alternative to the dewormers that are currently available because it can successfully repress common gastrointestinal nematodes during peak reproductive stress without the aid of traditional dewormers. This means that traditional dewormers can be reserved for usage at a later time. This effectively delays the usage of traditional dewormers, and therefore delays resistance to these drugs. Early Bird is able to depress overall parasite burden, significantly decreasing parasite replication and  parasite transmission within the operation. This bolsters the overall health of the animals and the pasture. If the operation is participating in local trade, then any overall improvements in animal health has regional effects.  

Cooperators

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  • Dr. Kelsey Bruno (Researcher)
  • Cassie Parente - Producer

Research

Materials and methods:

Sixty sheep (30 Dorpers and 30 Icelandic) kept on pasture on a dual-purpose farm in Sherman, CT were the subjects of this study. Two rams serviced this herd, of which the rest were females between 2 and 6 years old. The herd had a history of high morbidity and mortality with respect to Haemonchus contortus, and had a long history with multiple traditional dewormers. The sheep were fed second cutting grass hay and Purina Mills sheep rations with free choice minerals. The sheep were be evaluated for FAMACHA scores, body condition scores, body weights, fecal egg counts, larval culture, and Haemonchus identification (fluorescent tagged peanut agglutinin) on Day 0 of the study. They received temporary identification on that day to associate their laboratory results with individual identities. Day 1-14, they were fed the Early Bird feed additive as a top dressing over their grain. On Day 14, they were evaluated for FAMACHA scores, body condition scores, body weights, fecal egg counts, larval culture, and Haemonchus identification. The fecal egg counts, larval cultures, and Haemonchus identifications were performed by Dr. Lejeune at the Cornell Animal Health Diagnostic Center's Department of Parasitology. 

The feed additive, Early Bird, is a top dressing with two separate formulas. The first formula was fed for seven days in a row and the second formula was fed for seven days in a row, comprising a 14-day treatment. The formulas consist of whole herbs that have been rendered into coarse powder. The first phase consisted of Areca catechu, Prunus mume, Atractylodes lancea, Codonopsis pilosula, Fructus quisqualis, Zingiber officinale, Torreya gandis, Raphanus sativus L., and Omphalia lapidenscens. The dosing schedule for this phase delivered 1000mg per sheep for four days, followed by 2000mg per sheep for three days. The second phase consisted of Avena sativa, Astragalus membranicus, Curcurbita pepo L., Withania somnifera, Althea officinalis, Urtica dioica L., Medicago sativa, Centella asiatica, Foeniculum vulgare, Silybum marianum, and Calendula officinalis. The dosing schedule for this phase delivered 1000mg per sheep for four days, followed by 2000mg per sheep for three days. 

The data collected was analyzed using a one-way experimental design with descriptive analysis focused on measures of central tendency. 

 

Research results and discussion:

Seventy dual-purpose sheep (33 Dorpers and 33 Icelandic) were observed for a 14- day period. The sheep were first divided into two groups based on their breed, and kept on separate pasture sites. The two main groups were of mixed ages and life stages. Then, each main group was divided into two groups based on parasite load, meaning one low-shedding group and one high-shedding group. The groups were named as follows: the low-shedding Dorper group was called Group D1, the high-shedding Dorper group was called Group D2, the low-shedding Icelandic group was called Group I1, and the high-shedding Icelandic group was called Group I2. On Day 0, each individual was given a physical examination, had a fecal sample collected, was weighed, and was assigned a body condition score and FAMACHA score. Then, each group was fed the Early Bird supplement for 14 days in conjunction with their normal dietary routine. Fecal samples were sent to Cornell's Animal Health Diagnostic Center and were evaluated for quantitative fecal floatation and Haemonchus contortus identification by peanut-agglutination tagging. Then, on Day 14, each individual was once again examined, had a fecal sample collected, was weighed, and was assigned a body condition score and FAMACHA score. The fecal samples were sent to Cornell's AHDC for repeated analysis. 

The Day 0 (pre-treatment) results for Group D1 (low-shedding Dorpers) were an average body weight of 53 kg with a range of 39-94, an average body condition score of 3.5 with a range of 1-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 3 with a range of 2-4. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 126, Strongyles 22, Strongyloides 2, Trichuris 0, Moniezia 0, and Capilleria 0. No sample was positive for Haemonchus contortus. On Day 14 (post-treatment) the results for Group D1 were an average body weight of 56 kg with a range of 46-84 kg, an average body condition score of 3.75 with a range of 3-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 2.8 with a range of 1-4. The average amount of weight gained by the herd overall was 6kg. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 105, Strongyles 96, Strongyloides 103, Trichuris 10, Moniezia 4, and Capilleria 5. On Day 14, 60% of the group was positively identified as carrying Haemonchus contortus. 

The Day 0 (pre-treatment) results for Group D2 (high-shedding Dorpers) were an average body weight of 35 kg with a range of 19-68, an average body condition score of 3 with a range of 1-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 4 with a range of 2-5. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 1140, Strongyles 1283, Strongyloides 122, Trichuris 254, Moniezia 27, and Capilleria 0. 82% of these high-shedding samples were positive for Haemonchus contortus. On Day 14 (post-treatment) the results for Group D2 were an average body weight of 37 kg with a range of 20-68 kg, an average body condition score of 3 with a range of 1-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 2.5 with a range of 1-5. The average amount of weight gained by the herd overall was 2kg. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 610, Strongyles 1616, Strongyloides 407, Trichuris 174, Moniezia 10, and Capilleria 10. On Day 14, 100% of the group was positively identified as carrying Haemonchus contortus. 

Table 1.

Group  Parameter Day 0 Day 14 Favorable
D1 Avg Body Wt (kg) 53kg 56kg Yes
D1 Avg Body Condition Score 3.5 3.75 Yes
D1 Avg FAMACHA Score 3.0 2.8 Yes
D1 Avg Eimeria epg 126 105 Yes
D1 Avg Strongyles epg 22 96 No
D1 % Haemonchus Identified 0 60 No
D2 Avg Body Wt (kg) 35 37 Yes
D2 Avg Body Condition Score 3 3 Yes
D2 Avg FAMACHA Score 4 2.5 Yes
D2 Avg Eimeria epg 1140 610 Yes
D2 Avg Strongyles epg 1283 1616 No
D2 % Haemonchus Identified 82 100 No

The Day 0 (pre-treatment) results for Group I1 (low-shedding Icelandics) were an average body weight of 70 kg with a range of 47-88, an average body condition score of 3.2 with a range of 2-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 3 with a range of 1-3. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 254, Strongyles 102, Strongyloides 36, Trichuris 4, Moniezia 17, and Capilleria 14. 42% of samples were positive for Haemonchus contortus. On Day 14 (post-treatment) the results for Group I1 were an average body weight of 76 kg with a range of 47-88 kg, an average body condition score of 3.5 with a range of 2-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 2.0 with a range of 1-3. The average amount of weight gained by the herd overall was 6kg. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 458, Strongyles 210, Strongyloides 34, Trichuris 5, Moniezia 21, and Capilleria 2. On Day 14, 21% of the group was positively identified as carrying Haemonchus contortus. 

The Day 0 (pre-treatment) results for Group I2 (High-shedding Icelandics) were an average body weight of 56 kg with a range of 21-77, an average body condition score of 4.0 with a range of 3-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 4 with a range of 3-5. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 2137, Strongyles 2565, Strongyloides 1292, Trichuris 18, Moniezia 122, and Capilleria 7. 100% of the samples were positive for Haemonchus contortus. On Day 14 (post-treatment) the results for Group I2 were an average body weight of 62 kg with a range of 35-86 kg, an average body condition score of 4.5 with a range of 4-5, and an average FAMACHA score of 2.0 with a range of 1-4. The average amount of weight gained by the herd overall was 6.6kg. The average eggs per gram of Eimeria was 1231, Strongyles 1671, Strongyloides 367, Trichuris 26, Moniezia 42, and Capilleria 2. On Day 14, 62.5% of the group was positively identified as carrying Haemonchus contortus. 

 

Table 2.

Group  Parameter Day 0 Day 14 Favorable
I1 Avg Body Wt (kg) 70kg 76kg Yes
I1 Avg Body Condition Score 3.2 3.5 Yes
I1 Avg FAMACHA Score 3.0 2.0 Yes
I1 Avg Eimeria epg 254 458 No
I1 Avg Strongyles epg 102 210 No
I1 % Haemonchus Identified 42 21 Yes
I2 Avg Body Wt (kg) 56 62 Yes
I2 Avg Body Condition Score 4 4.5 Yes
I2 Avg FAMACHA Score 4 2.0 Yes
I2 Avg Eimeria epg 2137 1231 Yes
I2 Avg Strongyles epg 2565 1671 Yes
I2 % Haemonchus Identified 100 62.5 Yes 
Research conclusions:

The objective of this study was to prove that Early Bird could reduce gastrointestinal nematode prevalence, specifically Haemonchus contortus, in a dual-purpose sheep operation. The authors also expected that Early Bird usage would result in an improvement in body condition and FAMACHA score of the herd overall. Interestingly, our query met the objective in both Icelandic groups, but failed to meet the objective in both Dorper groups. In both the low-shedding and high-shedding Dorper groups, treatment resulted in an increase in eggs per gram of Haemonchus, as well as an increase in animals positively identified as carrying Haemonchus. Despite these findings, both Dorper groups still experienced in increase in body condition and a decrease in FAMACHA scores, which are both favorable outcomes. By comparison, both low-shedding and high-shedding Icelandic groups experienced reduced prevalence of Haemonchus contortus. The high-shedding group of Icelandics also experienced a significant decrease in average eggs per gram of strongyles from 3565 to 1671 throughout the group. Both Icelandic groups experienced an increase in body condition scores and decrease in FAMACHA scores - favorable results. 

Participation Summary
1 Farmer participating in research

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

6 Consultations
1 Published press articles, newsletters

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

Six small ruminant and camelid producers have consulted with the authors on the usage of this product on their farm, and continue to use the treatment either monthly or quarterly depending on the needs of the operation. A magazine called the Hair Sheep Times published an article describing the product and its usage in their November 2021 issue. Three farmers total have expressed interest in participating in future studies using this product. A manuscript about this project is being prepared for entry into Veterinary Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal. Abstracts for this project will be submitted to the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners and the International Camelid Health Conference as lecture topics for continuing education conferences. A website has been created to share the results of both studies, earlybirdworm.com, which has been mostly trafficked by New Jersey and Connecticut, both areas of which the principal investigator practices medicine and engages clients. 

 

Learning Outcomes

3 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:

During the on-site analysis of this project, both our partner farmer and her neighboring farmer participated in activities such as body condition scoring and FAMACHA scoring, both which they now regularly practice across three separate farms. On all three farms, since receiving final data, farmers have re-assess pasture rotation plans and begun more stringent pasture rotation practices. 

Project Outcomes

3 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The partner farmer and her neighboring farmer have both displayed increase interest in practicing parasite management on their farms, resulting in increased veterinary consultation times, increased fecal testing surveillance, and therefore has achieved better overall herd health. The partner farmer typically observes 15% mortality in her herd from September to November due to parasite infestation, and this year she had no losses following Early Bird treatment and increased husbandry practices. 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The authors did not foresee such a significant difference in results between Dorper and Icelandic groups, especially considering that pasture environment, living conditions and nutritional plane were exact in both groups. This invites other questions about parasite resistance, such as the herd history and breed genetics of specific groups. This presents a challenge in terms of data analysis, because clinically both groups appreciated increased body condition and increased good health overall, despite the eggs per gram discovered. Therefore, the clinical subjective observations such as body condition, and the data-based objective observations such as eggs per gram, are at odds with each other. The authors did receive answers to their hypotheses. This does represent a need for further investigation on the efficacy of Early Bird, and highlights the need to study a population large enough to provide a control group and a comparison treatment group. These results are valuable to any small ruminant producer in the Northeast of the United States. 

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.