Researchers at Iowa State University concluded that of all the pharmaceutical technologies examined, parasite control in cow herds had the greatest effect on breakeven prices — providing a value of $201 per head. This represents a 21% increase from similar data reported in 2007.

“The original data was based on feed and cattle prices prior to the recent increase in these areas,” says John Lawrence, PhD, of Iowa State University’s Economics Department. “Does the increase in feed and input costs make a difference in the effect of efficiency-gaining technologies? The answer is yes.”

In 2007, Lawrence and his team examined more than 170 research trials from the last 25 years. Recently, they re-evaluated and updated this research based on increases in cattle and feed prices. The study concluded that the importance of each technology increased with higher prices.

When compared with the second most important practice to a cow-calf herd — the use of growth-promoting implants — parasite control is almost six times more important to breakeven cost. Producers who use parasite control can expect an advantage of 23% in weaning rate and 4% in weaning weight. These advantages equal a return of $201 per head based on the use of parasite control.

“The message is the same as it was before, but now even more so,” Lawrence says. “Efficiency-gaining technologies, such as parasite control and growth promotants, are now even more valuable in improving performance and reducing cost.”

Frank Hurtig, DVM, Merial, says this means parasite control is an area that producers cannot afford to cut.  “The urge to cut back on input costs is understandable,” Hurtig says. “However, this data shows that producers cannot afford to skimp on parasite control. In fact, cutting back on parasite control would result in an increase in their overall cost of production.”

Lawrence agrees that producers should think twice about cutting back, and think more about the long-term effect of their decisions. “Removing these technologies actually increases the cost of raising an animal,” he says. “Producers need to look at these technologies as an investment rather than an expense. The cost to raise their product actually will be lower if producers are using these technologies.” 

Hurtig says not only should producers not cut back on parasite control, but they should consider adding a spring parasite control treatment. “Spring parasite control has been shown to result in increased weaning weight and reproductive efficiency, two areas that greatly affect cow-calf producers’ bottom line. Producers with a mind on their profit margin should consider all available opportunities to create efficiency and a spring parasite control treatment is a place to start.”