This project is a culmination of 6 years of work, using rotational grazing and animal selection as the primary methods of controlling internal parasites in small ruminants.
Using these two strategies has shown that we can control most internal parasite problems. It is a systems approach, that requires planning and monitoring to stay ahead of the problems. Culling has to be strict and has to be continued from year to year. Rainfall can be a real problem, but by moving livestock right after a rainfall, then parasite problems can be kept to a minimum.
During this time, we have tried numerous alternative treatments. Chicory and sericea lespedeza plantings have been done and have shown good results in animal performance and decreased fecal egg counts. Sericea has been difficult to establish in central AR. Livestock are rotationally grazed on established chicory pastures, but are still on chicory all through the parasite season. It’s unclear how much chicory needs to be in a pasture to be an effective control.
Other treatments that have been used are an herbal product called Molly’s Finest, papaya seeds and whole papayas, a garlic juice preparation called Garlic Barrier and finally cayenne pepper and a Garlic Barrier-black walnut tincture-tobacco tincture. These treatments have been given using a control and treatment group, monitoring FAMACHA scores and fecal egg counts. Molly’s Finest did nothing to stop parasite loads from reaching lethal levels. Garlic Barrier is a good tonic, but doesn’t help with parasite levels. Papaya seeds did not have enough of an effect and were difficult to administer. The Garlic Barrier-black walnut tincture-tobacco tincture and the cayenne pepper were the only things that showed any promise and will be used on more producer farms this year, combining the pepper with the other mixture.
However, it needs to be strongly cautioned that we have found no treatment that by itself, can prevent death loss in small ruminants. Rotational grazing and animal selection must be used to stay ahead of internal parasite problems, especially if there are no effective chemical anthelmintics available or if a producer wishes to raise organic small ruminants.
Internal parasites are the biggest disease problem of sheep and goats, especially in the warm, humid climates of the south. Parasites are often fatal, detrimentally affecting the sustainability of small operations. The anthelmintics typically used to kill internal parasites are losing their effectiveness because of increased resistance. Without proper grazing management, pastures continue to be spots for parasite infestation, further compounding issues. In order for sheep/goat enterprises to be economically viable and ecologically sound, treatments must befound which can work when parasites become resistant to the commercial anthelmintics. There is a dire need to determine what alternative therapies are most effective and under what conditions.
To further test the grazing of chicory as an anthelmintic.
To test cayenne pepper and a black walnut/tobacco tincture/garlic juice preparations as anthelmintic treatments, to be used as needed.
To determine, with the use of cattle and sheep alternately grazed, how little treatment is needed.
Sheep flocks were used at Heifer Ranch and with three cooperator farms, one in Arkansas and two in Oklahoma.
Chicory was planted at Heifer Ranch
Six ewe-twin lamb sets were rotationally grazed for two years on 8 equal sized paddocks of chicory. Control sheep were rotationally grazed in same sized paddocks of mixed species pastures.
Garlic juice/black walnut tincture/tobacco tincture was one treatment
Cayenne pepper capsules was second treatment
Treatment groups of lambs were randomly selected with one group receiving the garlic juice/black walnut/tobacco tincture, one group receiving cayenne pepper capsules, and the control group receiving nothing. Fecals were collected and FAMACHA test run on day zero, lambs were treated, then fecals collected and FAMACHA tests run on days 7, 14, 21.
Because fecal egg counts show that rotational grazing of sheep reduces egg counts of strongyles, we know that this is an essential part of a management plan for reducing parasite problems in small ruminants. Selection of breeding stock that showed no signs of parasites and/or had low fecal egg counts, also has proven to be an essential part of the management plan.
Grazing chicory on a continuous basis (within a rotational system) has also shown to lower fecal egg counts, as well as increase weight gains of lambs. The problem becomes how to use this information in a farm setting. Fred Provenza may have the answer to this as his work is showing that animals will seek out certain plants when they are needed for a medical reason.
Of all the alternative treatments used, only the garlic juice/black walnut/tobacco tinctures and cayenne pepper had any positive results and that was improved FAMACHA scores over the time period of the 4 week trial. Unfortunately, the fecal egg counts were not done quickly enough and the results neither confirmed or negated the impact of these treatments.
Educational & Outreach Activities
A presentation of the research was presented at the Southern Animal Science meeting in February 2009.
A presentation including this research was given at the Southern Sustainable Ag Working Group meeting in January 2010.
A field day with 40 in attendance was held in March 2010. Results of all the work that has been carried out in the last six years was presented and discussed.
Multiple small workshops have been held in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, many of which are targetted to limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers.
Burke, J.M., A.Wells, P. Casey, J, Miller. 2009. Garlic and papaya lack control over gastrointestinal nematodes in goats and lambs. Veterinary Parasitology. 159:171-174.
Burke, J.M., A. Wells, P. Casey, R.M.Kaplan. 2009. Herbal dewormer fails to control gastrointestinal parasites in goats. Veterinary Parasitology 160:168-170.
Burke, J.M., P.Casey., A. Wells., R. Paddock. 2009. Influence of chicory in a rotational grazing system on gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) in sheep.Southern American Society of Animal Science, Atlanta GA. February.
With all the different alternative treatments we have tried, with the exception of the chicory pastures, along with other bioactive forage plants, there is not any alternative treatment that will work as well as an effective chemical anthelmintic. Because some producers don’t have effective chemical anthelmintics, we would like to see additional trials on the black walnut/tobacco tincture/cayenne pepper/garlic juice preparation.
All the cooperators are convinced that rotational grazing, animal selection and later weaning are keys to keeping clinical signs of internal parasitism to a minimum.
No formal economic analysis was done. But a decrease in animal losses and with fewer treatments needed, we feel the cost of a rotational grazing system is less than having to treat parasitized animals.
The farmer cooperators all gained a great deal of knowledge and perspective from participating in this project. All are working hard to eliminate the need for any kind of treatment, through some type of rotational grazing program and selection of resilient breeding stock.
The project manager believes so strongly in these two points, that she stresses them with all the producers she works with. Many have followed these strategies and continue to have success.
Producers still, however, look for that “magic bullet” treatment, that doesn’t require a lot of management. So everyone picks up on the single tiny positive results from the treatments this past year. They all want to try it and our concern is that they will miss the overarching results we have seen with controlled, rotational grazing and animal selection.
Areas needing additional study
The biggest area needing additional study is how to incorporate bioactive forages into a producers overall pasture management plan. The project manager will be looking at this herself using Fred Provenza’s data. But more research needs to be done to see if animals will self-select chicory, sericea lespedeza and other forages known to have a negative impact in gastrointestinal parasites.
Additional trials of the black walnut/tobacco tincture/garlic juice/cayenne pepper preparation would be welcomed.