When cattle graze on pastures, parasitic roundworm infections are an inevitable result.
When cattle graze on pastures, parasitic roundworm infections are an inevitable result. Every year, these parasites result in around $2 billion in production loss to the North American cattle industry due to their negative impacts on calf growth. Although ranchers routinely treat their animals with drugs to control parasitic worms, treatments are generally not tailored to the specific needs of the herd. Using a blanket approach not only leads to unnecessary economic loss, but also drives the parasites to become resistant to the drugs.
The Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) has awarded an $800,000 grant to a team of researchers, led by Dr. John Gilleard in the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), to improve parasitic roundworm control in cattle. The three-year study will quantify the economic impacts of parasites, investigate their transmission patterns, and use predictive computer models to implement more evidence-based control.
As cattle graze in pastures, along with grass they also ingest microscopic roundworm larvae present in the grass. These larvae then develop into adult parasites in the gut. A single adult roundworm can produce thousands of eggs every day, and as infections build up over the grazing season, calves can end up with tens of thousands of parasites. “Being able to predict pasture contamination rates based on grazing patterns and climatic conditions would help us develop more effective parasite treatment protocols,” says Gilleard, PhD, a veterinarian and expert parasitologist.
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Image via University of Calgary.