Sustainable control of gastro-intestinal nematodes in organic and grass-fed small ruminant production systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $230,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Joan Burke
USDA, Agricultural Research Service

Annual Reports


  • Animals: goats, sheep


  • Animal Production: parasite control, grazing management, preventive practices, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: biological control, prevention
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to develop and validate integrated strategies for control of parasitic nematodes in organic small ruminant production in the southern USA, Puerto Rico (PR), and the US Virgin Islands (USVI). Sheep and goat production are important industries in these regions, and the market for organic meat products is increasing (Green and Kremen, 2003). Organic production of small ruminants is achievable, but low weight gains on grass-dominant pastures and infection with gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) leading to reduced productivity and death losses, particularly of lambs and kids, are major constraints to profitable small ruminant production. Presently, certified organic supplements to meet nutritional requirements are costly, so improvements in southern forage systems for organic production are essential. NOP accepted parasite control methods for organic production are good nutrition, rotational grazing, and breeding for parasite resistance, but little data are available on their effectiveness in the southern USA, particularly for goats. Other non-chemical control technologies currently being tested and validated include use of copper oxide wire particles (COWP) (Burke et al., 2004), feeding of dried or fresh forages containing condensed tannins (CT) (Min and Hart, 2003; Shaik et al., 2006), and use of FAMACHA technology to identify GIN-susceptible animals for culling purposes. As there is no ‘silver bullet’ to solve the problem of GIN infection in small ruminants, combinations of these approaches will be tested at university, USDA-ARS, and on-farm sites in the proposed program, with results disseminated to clientele groups through producer workshops, scientific and producer-oriented publications, and a project web site.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. 1. Test the use of sericea lespedeza and other CT-containing plants, either as fresh forage, dried products (hay, pellets), or extracts, as GIN control agents in sheep and goats. 2. Examine alternative forage systems for organically-produced small ruminants to decrease GIN infection and increase weight gains. 3. Test integrated, forage-based GIN control systems for organic small ruminant production on-farm. 4. Efficiently and effectively provide information to producers on GIN control strategies for organic small ruminant production systems. 5. Complete impact assessment of non-chemical GIN control techniques on small ruminant producers.
    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.