Spring parasite treatments can help add weight to both calves and bank accounts. New university data has concluded that of all  the pharmaceutical technologies examined, parasite control in cow herds had the greatest effect on break-even prices  —   providing a value of $201 per head. This effect was derived using only weaning rates and weaning weights. Producers can get their share of this return by incorporating a spring parasite control treatment into their operation.

Frank Hurtig, DVM, Merial, says cow-calf producers who use parasite treatments in the spring on their spring-calving herds, can expect benefits such as:

  • Increased weaning weights
  • Boosted reproductive performance
  • Reduced pasture parasite loads
  • Reduced parasite infections in calves as a result of reduced pasture contamination by cows

“Spring parasite control is more of a production efficiency issue than an animal health issue,” says parasitologist Michael Hildreth, PhD, South Dakota State University. “Parasites affect the production parameters that producers care about most, such as weight gain, feed efficiency, carcass quality, conception rates, milk production and immune response. Spring treatments can help gain efficiencies in these areas.”

Research has shown cows treated for parasites at turnout have shown more than a 12% reproductive advantage when compared with untreated cows. Hurtig says though cattle producers in cold-weather climates may think the winter will kill parasites, they should not neglect spring parasite control. “Parasites overwinter in cattle and in the soil, even in Northern climates,” Hurtig says. “Soil temperatures are warmer than air temperatures, allowing parasites to survive. Plus, cold weather slows parasites’ metabolism, actually helping them to remain viable longer.”

Not only can parasites survive the winter, but research has shown that cattle can become re-infected even when the air temperature is below freezing. “This means cows can start getting re-infected with worms earlier than people may think,” Hurtig says. “In the spring, cows are at a higher risk than other times of year for not only getting infected but also to contaminate the pasture and increase the worm burden of their own calves.”

By treating cows at spring turnout, producers can kill the parasites already in the cow and those the cows pick up for the duration of time, based on its label, the endectocide is effective against each parasite. Spring treatments can help reduce parasite pressure for calves, too. In fact, Hildreth says parasite infection levels can be significantly lower in calves if cows were treated with an endectocide in the spring.

“Parasites overwintering on pasture have to get into cattle early in the spring to maintain their life cyle. If they can’t get into cattle, parasites on pasture starve to death,” he says. “That means that spring treatments not only protect the cow, they attack the parasite population at its weakest link, which means fewer overall parasites in cattle and on pastures.”