Frank Hurtig, DVM, Merial Veterinary Services, answers a few questions as cow-calf producers and veterinarians evaluate fall parasite control programs.

Q: Is parasite control a place to scale back when margins are tight?
A: Even though it may be tempting, cutting sound parasite control should be an absolute last resort this fall. Although I know it may seem to be a lot, herd health costs account for a small percentage of a cow/calf producer’s expenditures, but they can have a big impact on boosting productivity and securing profits.1 Of all animal health inputs, data shows that parasite control easily tops the list of most economically rewarding cow/calf pharmaceutical practices. Not controlling parasites in the cow herd can negatively impact a producer’s breakeven selling price by $201 per head, according to a report from Iowa State University.2

Q: Why is fall an important time to treat cattle for parasites?
A: During the summer months, parasites build up on pastures and in cattle.3 This makes fall cattle work — such as weaning or pregnancy checking — ideally timed opportunities to clear cattle of parasites in preparation for winter.

Controlling internal and external parasites in the fall sets calves up for more efficient weight gain and better overall health as they transition to the feeder or heifer development stage. Left unchecked, parasite infections will cause reduced weight gains, inefficient feed conversion and increased incidence of disease4 — all of which will quickly chip away at profits.

Controlling parasites also gives cows a much-needed boost as forage quality declines and they are struggling nutritionally.5 The decline in forage quality that happens in the fall makes it important that cattle get the most benefit possible out of the feed that is available. Parasite loads make that even more challenging. Parasites decrease appetite, have a negative effect on nutrient utilization and hamper immune response.6

Q: What do producers need to keep in mind when choosing a parasite control product?
A: When choosing a parasite control product it’s important to choose one that will control both internal and external parasites. It’s equally critical to use products that are backed by a trusted manufacturer and a 100% Product Satisfaction Guarantee.

Q. Are there any tips you can provide producers to help them get the most out of their parasite control program?
A: First, make sure the product is effective against target parasites in the area. Producers should carefully read labels to determine which parasites are controlled by the product and the duration of the product against target parasites.

Second, weigh cattle to determine accurate dosing and help achieve more effective treatment. Using too much or too little product can result in a wasted parasite control investment or less-than-ideal control.

Third, producers should work with their local veterinarian to help determine the best time to control parasites in their area. Obviously it is better to treat than not, but your veterinarian will know when the treatments will be most effective for your area.

Fourth, use parasite control products based on the region and life cycle of the target parasites. Due to the persistent effect of endectocides, treatments can be applied in northern climates two to three weeks before or after the first hard frost for the best fall and winter control. Where liver flukes are a concern, fall is an ideal time for treatment.

Finally, use a branded product that is backed by a product satisfaction guarantee

For more information,  visit Merial or  call 1-888-MERIAL-1.

IVOMEC Plus (ivermectin/clorsulon): Do not treat cattle within 49 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. IVOMEC (ivermectin) Pour-On: Do not treat cattle within 48 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. IVOMEC 1% Injection for Cattle and Swine: Do not treat cattle within 35 days of slaughter. Do not use in dairy cattle of breeding age or in veal calves. Do not treat swine within 18 days of slaughter. IVOMEC EPRINEX® (eprinomectin) Pour-On for Beef and Dairy: No meat or milk withdrawal is required when used according to label. All IVOMEC Brand Products: Do not use in other animal species not on the label as severe adverse reactions, including fatalities in dogs, may result.

1Down market effects in beef cow-calf herds. 1998 United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Accessed June 2. PDF file.

2Lawrence JD, Ibarburu MA. Economic analysis of pharmaceutical technologies in a bioeconomy era. 2009 Iowa State University.

3Stromberg BE. The role of parasites epidemiology in the management of grazing cattle. International Journal of Parasitology 1999;29:33-39.

4Bagley C, Healey MC, Hansen D. Internal parasites in cattle. Beef Cattle Handbook.

5Forage and Livestock Production Unit 2006 Annual Report. USDA Agricultural Research Service.  Full report. Accessed June 2, 2009.

6Bobb SB. Eaten alive. The Cattleman 2000:41.