Control of Haemonchus contortus in northern New England sheep and goats through manipulation of its winter ecology

2014 Annual Report for LNE14-337

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $200,161.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. James Weber
University of Maine

Control of Haemonchus contortus in northern New England sheep and goats through manipulation of its winter ecology


The principal investigators met in person with Extension professionals and producer representatives from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont in June 2014 to plan the research, teaching and outreach goals of the grant. We discussed strategies to attract and enroll small ruminant producers into active roles within the project, and identified key actions necessary for initiation of the planned research projects.

A parasite speciation and abundance survey was conducted during the 2014 grazing season (70 producers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont participated in this survey by sending multiple fecal samples for parasite analysis). We are currently analyzing these data for trends and associations among management strategies and parasite abundance.

A parasite identification training session in August 2014 taught 23 Maine producers to use a microscope for the identification and enumeration of internal parasites on their farm. A second round of microscope training is planned for New Hampshire in spring 2015.

Forty-three goat producers at the National Dairy Goat Producers’ Annual meeting in Portland, Maine attended a seminar on parasite management and biosecurity where the research and outreach goals of the grant were discussed.

Sixty-one Maine producers attended a day-long meeting (Maine Sheep and Goat Seminar) on sheep and goat disease control in November 2014. Several producer participants were recruited for upcoming projects, and all learned about winter parasite management of Haemonchus contortus.

A flock of research sheep was acquired in September 2014 in preparation for the Year One university research project. We are currently collecting data on these animals. In addition, a producer in Maine was recently recruited to participate in a controlled on-farm study of the effect of photoperiod on the timing of “Spring Rise’, the synchronized development of overwintered Haemonchus larvae into egg-producing adults.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Objective 1a: Determine the prevalence of the major internal parasites of sheep and goats on 120 commercial farms throughout northern New England (Strongyloides, trichostrongylids, tapeworms, Nematodirus). Using a species-specific test for Haemonchus, differentiate the Trichostrongylid nematode species into Haemonchus contortus, Teladorsagia circumcincta and Trichostrongylus spp. Monitor the relative abundance of Haemonchus egg production on ten farms each in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont at biweekly intervals throughout one winter non-grazing season (this will provide us with an estimate in different climatic zones of the comparative timing of spring rise, which will improve our ability to prevent contamination of pastures with Haemonchus eggs during the early spring).

Objective 1b: Identify 30 farms identified in objective 1a to participate in studies of Haemonchus winter ecology.

Objective 2a: Test third-stage (L3) Haemonchus larvae, the long-term infective reservoir of Haemonchiasis in pastures, for their survival after exposure to simulated (in vitro test) and actual (on-farm test) winter environmental conditions at their farm of origin.

Objective 2b: Use the cold-tolerance data to produce a northern New England map of Haemonchus winter-kill zones.

Objective 3: Compare the cold-tolerance of free-living Haemonchus larvae from commercial farms in northern New England with larvae collected from commercial farms in more southern climates (West Virginia and Georgia). The purpose of this comparison is to determine whether Haemonchus has become more cold-tolerant as it has moved north to northern climates.

Objective 4: Test the efficacy of the five winter eradication strategies detailed in Section D on a limited number of northern New England farms (two farms in each State) that have demonstrated zero overwinter survival of Haemonchus L3 larvae, and that have Haemonchus populations that are sensitive to at least one of the three major chemical classes of dewormers. Producers will be trained to implement as many of the management strategies as possible, and livestock production and economic data from the grazing season preceding and following the management changes will be compared.



Summer 2014: Principle Investigators meet to discuss implementation of grant components. A steering Committee is formed from leaders in the sheep and goat industries in northern New England, and holds its first annual meeting in fall 2014.  Initial meeting of PI’s occurred in 2014. Formation of a producer Steering Committee is ongoing during the winter of 2014-2015.

Fall 2014: Producer seminars (basic parasitology 101) are held in ME, VT and NH. 60 to 70 producers attend each event. Materials form these seminars are recorded and made available on-line through podcasts and webinars. Parasite management seminars were held in Augusta, Maine (MBNA meeting, January 2014, 60 producers), Farmington, Maine (Sheep and Goat Seminar, November 2014, 61 producers), and Portland, Maine (National Dairy Goat Seminar, October 2014, 43 producers). Additional producer seminars are scheduled in New Hampshire and Vermont for 2015.

Spring 2015: Parasite species are identified on 100 farms throughout NNE. Producers receive farm-specific information, then are taught effective management techniques based on the parasite species present in their animals. These participants are recruited for further studies. Seventy producers on sheep and goat farms in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont submitted multiple fecal samples from their animals during the 2014 grazing season, and received farm-specific consultation about management techniques best suited for their individual situation.

Fall 2015: Annual seminar is held in ME, VT and NH. Topics include wet labs to train producers how to identify parasites through fecal egg counts and Haemonchus infestations through the FAMACHA technique. Twenty-three Maine producers attended a parasite identification wet lab to learn quantitation and speciation of internal parasites using a compound microscope. A second wet lab that also includes FAMACHA training is scheduled for March 2015 in New Hampshire.

2015-2016: Regional producers learn about the Haemonchus eradication and winter kill projects. Discussions are held with producers to determine identify the parasite management strategies currently in use on their farms. Parasite management strategies currently in use on these farms are identified, and indices related to farm productivity during the 2015 grazing season are recorded.

Fall 2016: On-farm and controlled research results are communicated to producers throughout northern New England and nationally through web-based media such as Land Grant Cooperative Extension sites and E- Extension. A flock of 10 Icelandic ewes are acquired in September 2014 for the initial controlled study at the University of Maine. Data collection for the first winter management study is initiated in October 2014.

Fall / Spring 2016-2017: Project data are presented at national and regional conferences. Self-learning modules on parasite control are formed. Parasite burdens are monitored on farms that attempted eradication. A final set of regional parasite management conferences are held to receive producer feedback.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

We began to recruit and educate producers during the 2014 grazing season by offering parasite diagnostics paired with farm-specific parasite management advice.  Producer response was very enthusiastic, and many potential cooperators were identified. Detailed data on each farm were collected to identify trends related to the effectiveness of various existing parasite management strategies being used by producers.  A variety of basic parasite management seminars and workshops were offered during 2014, and attracted over 100 producers.  The principal investigators met once in June 2014, and also fleshed out several aspects of the project during phone and electronic discussions.  A research flock of sheep was acquired at the Univeirsty of Maine, and the first university research project was started in the fall of 2014.


Dorothy Perkins
Educational Program Coordinator
Universtiy of Vermont
315 Daniel Webster Highway
Merrimack County Cooperative Extension
Boscawan, NH 03303-2410
Office Phone: 6037962151
Dr. Joe Emenheiser
Livestock Specialist
University of Vermont
278 South Maine Street, Suite 2
St. Albans, VT 05478-1866
Office Phone: 8025246501
Dr. Julie Smith
Extension Associate Professor
University of Vermont
305B Terrill Building, Dept. of Animal Science
570 Maine Street
Burlington, VT 05405
Office Phone: 8026564496
Dr. Peter Erickson
Professor, Extension Dairy Specialist
University of New Hampshire
Department of Biological Sciences
46 College Avenue
Durham, NH 03824
Office Phone: 6038621909
Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner

Associate Professor
University of Maine
School of Food and Agriculture
5735 Hitchner Hall
Orono, ME 04469-5735
Office Phone: 2075812789
Dr. Richard Brzozowski
Extension Educator, Cumberland County
University of Maine
University of Maine Regional Learning Center
75 Clearwater Drive
Falmouth, ME 04105
Office Phone: 2077816099