Deworming is a best management practice in cattle and for good reason--it’s estimated that internal parasites alone cost the U.S. cattle industry $2 billion per year.
However, cattlemen don’t always consider the efficacy of the products they use. That’s where a fecal egg count reduction test (FECRT) can help, says DL Step, DVM, Boehringer Ingelheim.
“It’s a good way to judge whether the products used are still functioning as effectively as they should,” Step says. “I tell producers to expect a 90% or greater reduction in fecal egg counts in the ones that are.”
Using accurate data makes it easier to evaluate the efficacy of products and adjust deworming protocols effectively. To collect samples that are most indicative of a herd’s parasite load and ensure conclusive test results, Step provides four recommendations:
1) Identify individual animals and collect samples per rectum. Evaluation of fecal samples collected off the ground may not accurately indicate the prevalence of certain parasites. Ideally, animals should be restrained and samples taken via the rectum.
“Collecting samples per rectum prevents producers from grabbing eggs that may not accurately represent the parasite load or species infecting the group of cattle,” Step explains in a press release.
The class of dewormer administered will determine how many days after treatment samples should be collected. For best results, collect 15 to 20 individual fecal samples pre-treatment, and the same number of fecal samples from the same individually identified animals after treatment. Once an individual sample is collected and placed within the bag or specimen container, identify it by clearly marking the date collected, individual identification number and the animal group it was collected from.
2) Collect samples from similar groups of cattle. It’s important to collect samples from the same age and management group, as parasite species and loads can vary. Remember to keep sample groups separated if testing more than one group of cattle in your herd.
3) Administer deworming products according to label directions. “It’s difficult to know for sure if the deworming product is doing its job if it’s not administered correctly,” Step says in the release. “Be certain the product is stored correctly, the dose you’re administering is accurate for the weight of animal you’re treating, and that your equipment is properly functioning prior to treating the animals.”
An effective parasite-control program for any operation depends on a range of factors, including location, pasture management, parasite type and whether any resistance to the product used is present in the parasite population.
A common practice is to dose dewormers according to the average weight of the herd. While convenient, this can over- or under-dose a significant number of the cattle and diminish the effectiveness of the drug. Investing in a scale for the herd and administering a low-dose dewormer provide more accurate dosing and reduces product waste.
4) Perform a coproculture at the same time. Each class of dewormers has its own strengths and weaknesses, and certain classes are more effective against specific parasites. Step says a coproculture can help determine the species of parasites most prevalent within a herd, so you can help clients implement a targeted approach to parasite control.