How to Deal With Internal Parasites in Livestock

An experienced veterinarian describes what homesteaders can do to keep internal parasites out of their livestock.

| March/April 1979

It's very possible that a number of total strangers are thriving on the food that you give to your livestock or pets. These "freeloaders" may take many forms, but they usually resemble white worms and could be either several feet in length or microscopically small.

I'm talking, of course, about internal parasites. If your feed bills have been rising while the general health and productivity of your animals have been slipping, these pests are probably already well established around your farm or home.

Internal parasites (commonly called worms) occur in every part of the world, and each living creature (yes, even humans) has its own particular worms. Worse yet, since these parasites live (usually) in an animal's belly or intestines, you may not even know that your beasts are infested with 'em! Of course, animals with severe worm problems will display some of the classic symptoms—such as weight loss, poor growth, low milk yields, weakness, or white gums—but a critter can have parasites without showing such drastic signs. For example, a recent experiment conducted on healthy-looking goats showed that milk production was increased by 17% after one dose of an effective worm medicine!

The Problem With Parasites

Before you can even begin a parasite elimination program, though, you'll have to realize that you are faced with more than one form of pest. You see, most worms have several stages in their life cycles. In order to completely eradicate the freeloaders, you have to attack each of those Individual stages separately.

In order to explain this difficulty, let's look at the life cycle of the common parasite, Haemonchus. The adult worm thrives in the stomachs of sheep and goats, and there, in its hiding place, the parasite lays tough-skinned eggs. These are then passed In the host animal's feces (manure) and deposited in pastures, where they can lie for years unaffected by freezing cold or intense heat just waiting for another animal to come along and pick them up.

So, the first problem that confronts the "do it yourself" parasite controller is that worm eggs can be almost anywhere and are nearly impossible to destroy.

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