Frank Hurtig, DVM, Merial Veterinary Services, answers a few questions as cow-calf producers and veterinarians evaluate fall parasite control programs.
Q: Is parasite control a place to scale back when margins are tight?
A: Even though it may be tempting, cutting sound parasite control should be an absolute last resort this fall. Although I know it may seem to be a lot, herd health costs account for a small percentage of a cow/calf producer’s expenditures, but they can have a big impact on boosting productivity and securing profits.1 Of all animal health inputs, data shows that parasite control easily tops the list of most economically rewarding cow/calf pharmaceutical practices. Not controlling parasites in the cow herd can negatively impact a producer’s breakeven selling price by $201 per head, according to a report from Iowa State University.2
Q: Why is fall an important time to treat cattle for parasites?
A: During the summer months, parasites build up on pastures and in cattle.3 This makes fall cattle work — such as weaning or pregnancy checking — ideally timed opportunities to clear cattle of parasites in preparation for winter.
Controlling internal and external parasites in the fall sets calves up for more efficient weight gain and better overall health as they transition to the feeder or heifer development stage. Left unchecked, parasite infections will cause reduced weight gains, inefficient feed conversion and increased incidence of disease4 — all of which will quickly chip away at profits.
Controlling parasites also gives cows a much-needed boost as forage quality declines and they are struggling nutritionally.5 The decline in forage quality that happens in the fall makes it important that cattle get the most benefit possible out of the feed that is available. Parasite loads make that even more challenging. Parasites decrease appetite, have a negative effect on nutrient utilization and hamper immune response.6
Q: What do producers need to keep in mind when choosing a parasite control product?
A: When choosing a parasite control product it’s important to choose one that will control both internal and external parasites. It’s equally critical to use products that are backed by a trusted manufacturer and a 100% Product Satisfaction Guarantee.
Q. Are there any tips you can provide producers to help them get the most out of their parasite control program?
A: First, make sure the product is effective against target parasites in the area. Producers should carefully read labels to determine which parasites are controlled by the product and the duration of the product against target parasites.