Improving small ruminant parasite control in New England

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: parasite control, animal protection and health, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, preventive practices, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Gastrointestinal nematode infections are a serious economic problem for small ruminant producers in the Northeast, limiting their ability to raise sheep and goats on pasture. The barber pole worm, in particular, has caused massive economic losses in the south and is starting to make its’ presence felt in New England. Significant progress has occurred over the last decade in the development of best management practices (BMP) for parasite control. 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 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 BMP’s during on-farm visits will encourage at least 290 of the 3700 farms in the region to adopt several of the following practices, potentially affecting more than 4,240 animals: 1) Use the FAMACHA© system, body condition scoring and fecal egg counts for detection and selective de-worming of infected animals (reduction in anthelmintic use and associated costs); 2) Implement alternative parasite control practices such as mixed species grazing and pasture rotation (increase sustainable practices); 3) Factor parasite susceptibility of individual animals into farm breeding programs (increase percentage of parasite resistant animals, increase productivity).

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Milestone 1. 1100 (30%) producers in the four-state region (CT, MA, RI and VT) will complete a comprehensive survey on their current methods, problems and costs associated with parasite control. 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.

    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. (Years 1-2).

    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. (Years 1-3).

    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.

    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.

    Milestone 6. 290 (8%) producers will reduce anthelmintic use by using the FAMACHA© system, BCS and FEC to selectively deworm those animals infected with parasites. (Yrs 2-3).

    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.

    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.