Keep Livestock Healthy with Regular Worming

A country vet answers MOTHER readers' questions about livestock health, and recommends regular worm control programs for all sheep, horses, beef cattle, and heifers.

| August/September 1992

A summer Sunday dinner of fried chicken, new potatoes, peas, and just-picked sweet corn—followed by wild blueberry shortcake—using products of your own farm can bring quite a bit of self-satisfaction. (A heavy meal like this can also make you ready for a nap.) While I was growing up on a family farm during the 1930s, these Sunday meals were like an early Thanksgiving, and often included several less fortunate relatives from the city. We never followed these heavy meals by napping, however, but by a family hike to "heifer hill," a mountain pasture, to salt the heifers.

My father would remind us that although we were eating well off the farm, by midsummer our livestock found slim pickings, and needed to be checked at least weekly for health problems or injuries. From the high meadow of the hill, we might look across the valley and see a neighbor family checking their sheep. On the way back, we'd take a little treat of oats and salt to the spare team turned in the horse pasture.

The main concern in those days was short pasture from a dry summer, which did not provide enough nutrition for livestock. Here in the Northeast, up until the mid-Fifties, if a herd of young stock, a flock of sheep, or team of horses on pasture appeared thin and "ribby," the logical explanation was that they were just not getting enough to eat. Internal parasites were considered a problem only on lowland pastures in the deep South. How things have changed! Questions to MOTHER indicate that herd and flock problems with thin animals are common in all parts of the United States and Canada. Let's look at a few:

We bought a pair of ewes with lambs by their side about five years ago, and borrowed a buck each year to breed them. At the end of two years, we had increased our flock to 10, but since then we have not been able to increase our numbers due to losses of individual animals each summer. The ones we lost developed diarrhea, swelled up under their jaws, went down, and died. The whole flock seemed so thin. The lambs that we butchered last fall hadn't really grown well and were poor. A neighbor said we have built up a worm problem. What can we do to get rid of it? 
John Toffle, Vermont 

It is nearly impossible to run a successful sheep operation without a year-round worm-control program. Fortunately, there are effective wormers available, administered both by hypodermic injection and as feed additives. The complicated (and sometimes ineffective) drenches that are given to sheep by mouth are, thank goodness, a thing of the past. As always, your local veterinarian is the best source of information for your particular situation.

If your veterinarian does not do sheep work, he or she can recommend one that does, and who will supply you with the proper anthelmintics (worm remedies). Most importantly, he or she will set you up on a year-round worm-control program.

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