High tannin grain sorghum as a possible natural anthelmintic for sheep and goats

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Matching Federal Funds: $52,161.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Niki Whitley
UMES - Maryland Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, oats, sorghum (milo), soybeans, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, parasite control, feed rations, homeopathy, preventive practices, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: disease vectors, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The objectives of the proposed project are to determine the effectiveness of high-tannin grain sorghum as a natural anthelmintic for small ruminants and provide workshops to demonstrate use of the sorghum and methods for determining need for anthelminitic treatment (FAMACHA, fecal egg counting). The project will be conducted at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Farm in Princess Anne, MD and on producer farms in MD and PA (in conjunction with the PA Association for Sustainable Agriculture). In year one, working with the National Grain Sorghum Producers (SGSP), at least five sorghum varieties will be tested for tannin levels and levels will be compared with serecia lespedeza (has high tannin and decreases parasite fecal egg counts in goats). In year two, at UMES, 60 crossbred hair sheep lambs and 60 Boer crossbred goat kids will be artificially (part 1) or naturally infected with parasites (part 2) and will be fed diets containing high tannin (based on year 1 results) or low tannin grain sorghum (30/species/treatment) and parasitism monitored. Workshops for producers will be held to demonstrate and teach the parasite monitoring techniques (FAMACHA-an eye color chart- and fecal egg counting) and follow-up meetings held to determine how many producers implement one. In year 3, on-farm projects will be conducted in MD with cooperation from the Lower Shore Goat and Sheep Producers Association and in PA through PASA and follow-up will occur through phone calls and interviews with farmers. Products of this project will include the development and demonstration of a natural dewormer for small ruminants using University and producer-led research and the development of a new market for high-tannin grain sorghum, thus helping to sustain two different agricultural areas. A fact sheet and newsletter articles will be published. Of the 60 participating farmers, 20 will decrease chemical dewormer use through the use of grain sorghum as a natural dewormer and/or incorporation of the use of FAMACHA or fecal egg counting.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Performance Target: Of the 60 small ruminant producers engaged in this SARE project, 20 will decrease chemical dewormer use through the use of grain sorghum as a natural dewormer and/or incorporation of the use of FAMACHA or fecal egg counting.

    The desired change is a decrease in chemical dewormer use by small ruminant producers, over a three-year period, to result in a more sustainable production system. Without intervention, small ruminant farmers will continue to be less profitable and use too much chemical dewormer. Also, without intervention to develop a new market for high-tannin grain sorghum, the decreased production of high-tannin grain sorghum will continue. This project will determine if high tannin grain sorghum can be fed to goats and sheep as a natural dewormer while using methods to determine specific animals that need deworming to decrease chemical dewormer use. This performance target will have been reached when at least 20 producers decreased chemical dewormer use by using high tannin grain sorghum as a natural dewormer and/or use FAMACHA or fecal egg counting to only dose animals that need it. We will know this through workshop surveys and follow-up farm visits (and phone calls and interviews). Since we work extensively with farmers, this goal is easily accomplished. Educational and demonstration workshops will be held in the Spring and Fall of 2006 and 2007 in cooperation with Maryland Cooperative Extension and PASA to report results and get producer feedback. Three producers in MD have already requested that they be able to participate in on-farm research once the varieties and amounts to feed have been established and demonstrated. Michele Gauger and Heather House at PASA have also identified PA farmers that would like to be involved.

    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.