Make the most of grass by managing your worm control programme

Plan ahead before turnout to ensure you’re on top of parasite control, as high worm burdens can significantly affect growth rates.That’s the advice from Dr Andy Forbes, COWS (Control of Worms Sustainably) technical representative and Honorary Professor at the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine.

This spring it will be vital that producers get the most out of grazed grass, and avoid any growth checks in young cattle, he says. “Producers must work with their vets, and SQP advisers, to implement a planned worm control programme that will benefit overall herd performance. Weaning is a high risk time for beef calves, as they are dealing with the combined effect of a change in diet, loss of social interaction with cows, plus the increased risk of ingesting infective gut worm, lungworm and liver fluke through grazing”.

Dr Forbes says that the risk to cattle from parasitic infection can be reduced by considering the farm system and implementing a targeted control programme that is farm specific and takes into account both the age of animals, and the pasture grazing history. “Early season, strategic treatment with anthelmintics and grazing stock on silage or hay aftermaths or on pastures that haven’t been grazed by cattle during the same grazing system, will help to reduce their exposure to parasitic challenges, allowing calves to grow on well.”

Focusing on spring-born calves, he says producers with these suckler herds often start with an advantage, as this system generally carries a lower risk when it comes to worm control at turnout, with young stock typically exposed to fewer infective stages of parasites.”Young suckling calves eat proportionally less grass compared to weaned calves. The majority of their nutrition is supplied via the mother’s milk, which in itself provides some natural immunity to worms and helps make the stomach inhospitable to gut worms.”

Guidance provided by COWS promotes the responsible use of anthelmintics. Combining this with good pasture management can help to reduce the population of infective parasite stages on grazing pastures, and the subsequent negative effects on beef herd performance at grazing.

“It’s all about managing the parasite risk to cattle in a responsible, targeted manner,” says Dr Forbes. “Working alongside vets and SQP advisers will enable farmers to tailor their on-farm control strategy according to the pasture risk, and the specific farming system.”

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