Expanding Opportunities for Sustainable Management of Small Ruminant Gastrointestinal Parasites

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $242,071.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Rhode Island
Region: Northeast
State: Rhode Island
Project Leader:
Katherine Petersson
University of Rhode Island

Information Products


  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, parasite control

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification:
    Gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) are associated with increased mortality and reduced performance of small ruminants (SR) in pasture-based operations. In addition, females are more susceptible to GIN during the periparturient period (late gestation to early lactation) because of immune suppression. Producers struggle to control GIN in lambs and periparturient ewes because of increasing parasite resistance to commercial dewormers, a lack of effective alternatives to anthelmintics, and, in most cases, an inability to accurately identify individuals that are genetically less susceptible to infection. Effective tools for parasite control exist; the challenge is making these techniques widely available.

    Solution and Approach:
    The primary beneficiaries of this project are northeastern producers concerned about the deleterious effects of GIN infections in their sheep and goats. We will update and condense the existing videos of our existing online IPM/FAMACHA© certification program (LNE15-342) and then transcribe and translate the program into Spanish, thereby increasing access to this material by a more culturally diverse audience. We will develop a facilitated group format for producers who struggle with or have limited internet access. A group-based format will also allow us to offer this program to extension and youth groups as well as classes of agriculture, veterinary and veterinary technician students.

    We will continue to offer workshops with a focus on selective breeding through the use of the estimated breeding values (EBV) for parasite resistance. Producers will be introduced to the benefits of enrolling in the National Sheep Improvement Program (NSIP) and supported with fecal egg count (FEC) analyses. Furthermore, development of a FAMACHA© EBV, in addition to the existing FEC EBV will provide NSIP producers another tool for selecting stock with improved natural resistance to GIN. Ultimately, a multiple-trait selection index that includes multiple GIN resistance traits as well as other economically important traits will be developed for pasture-based sheep operations enabling NSIP producers to select replacement animals that excel in traits affecting health and production simultaneously.

    Our research investigating the anti-parasitic potential of cranberry vine (CV) to control GIN in lambs began with LNE10-300 and continues with LNE15-342. We will extrapolate results found in lamb studies to evaluate the anthelmintic efficacy of feeding CV to periparturient ewes, a challenging period for producers to manage. If this proves to be a viable strategy for managing periparturient GIN infections, this would be a valuable tool for producers to have in their IPM toolkit.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Four hundred small ruminant (SR) producers, who have reported problems with parasites in the past five years, will introduce or improve integrated parasite management practices including genetic selection for resistance. These behaviors will result in reduced death and productivity losses totaling $428,750.

    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.