Safe-Guard Your Investment: Cattle Deworming Tips

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Heavy parasite infections can be detrimental to your cattle. Research shows that internal parasites can cost a producer nearly $200 per head over the lifetime of each animal. Being persistent with your deworming program can pay off in the end and help ensure your cattle perform better.

Protecting your herd and your bottom line is a matter of being aware of signs and symptoms and taking the proper steps for preventative maintenance against these pesky parasites.

Here are a few deworming tips that will help in the management of your cattle.

Consider the Benefits of Fecal Sampling

It’s recommended to take about 25 of your animal’s fecal samples at random. The results will help you monitor the effectiveness of your current program. It may also lead to determining a more effective deworming plan to administer. Fecal samples are:

  • Insightful for evaluating and knowing the count of parasite eggs
  • Helpful in determining if a second or third treatment is needed
  • Good at identifying which parasite species are present
  • Easy to accomplish and are typically inexpensive

Taking Proper Preparation Steps for Deworming

While cattle can handle a few worms, which will also help build immunity, a heavy infestation can be life threatening. Younger animals are more prone, especially since their immune system hasn’t built up a tolerance yet. Additionally, some parasites thrive better in certain locations, while others do not. For example, the Ostertagia worm can’t survive in the hot 100° summer days in southern regions and will lay dormant. Here are some preparation ideas to keep in mind:

  • Ideal time to introduce a deworm largely depends on region, climate, and grazing conditions
  • Start with bulls first as they typically have higher worm egg counts
  • If considering deworming calves, research shows an optimal age is about two to three months old, either at or before weaning
  • Work with your vet to determine the best strategy for your area, grazing patterns, and pasture

Recognizing Symptoms

Keep parasite infections from thwarting appetites and debilitating performance by recognizing key symptoms. Reducing resistance with deworming programs and knowing which class of dewormers to opt for can be beneficial strategies to implement. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Symptoms in your cow herd could include difficulty breeding and/or cows not coming into heat
  • Calves’ quality and performance may suffer and have lower weaning weights (if this is the case, you might also consider a growth supplement)
  • Weakened immune systems, weight loss, and loss of feed efficiency
  • Coat conditions appear rougher; development of anemia or edema

Reducing Chances of Resistance

With the introduction of more and more deworming products and advanced technology, some classic deworming practices have been disregarded. By not regularly rotating classes of livestock on pastures, closely monitoring animals, and overstocking pastures there has ultimately been a decreased efficiency of deworming products. Here are a few things to take into consideration that might help with reducing resistance:

  • Use concurrent deworming treatments to better handle a wider spectrum of parasites and treat other health concerns
  • Rotate classes of dewormers every few years to avoid overuse
  • Mature cows typically only need dewormed once per year or even left untreated if in good body condition
  • Know the types of worms in your area to target them specifically

While there are other considerations to take into account for achieving an effective full-season pasture deworming program, Safe-Guard® by Merck Animal Health is a top-performing brand. Their studies recommend considering the following additional measures of precaution:

  • Deworm based on the work life cycle throughout the season to lower the worm burden in cattle and on the pasture
  • A treatment before spring turnout with drench or paste eliminates existing worm burdens and prevents work egg shedding back into pastures


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