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Prevent external parasites from sucking the life out of your herd

published: October 30th 2020
source: Beef Cattle Research Council

External parasites, such as lice, ticks and flies, live on and feed off their host animal. Parasites can cause stress and irritation, reduc-ed weight gain, and production losses in beef cattle, and can also be a vector for diseases. They can pose a problem any time of year for beef producers, however, as winter approaches and cattle start to spend more time in close quarters, parasites such as lice can be a challenge.
    Why does it seem like parasites persist in beef herds even after a control product has been applied? What is integrated pest management? What are practices that farmers can do to optimize control? Shaun Dergousoff, PhD, with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Kateryn Rochon, PhD, from the University of Manitoba gave an overview of parasites and addressed common concerns during a recent webinar.
    Managing external parasites is about control, not necessarily elimination. “When it comes to considerations for control, the goal is to reduce harm to livestock and reduce production losses,” says entomologist Dergousoff. Inte-grated pest management (IPM) is a key consideration. “It’s about using multiple different control methods together to really reduce the number of pests below a threshold, below the point where you lose money,” suggests Dergou-soff. There are four main steps of effective IPM.
    1. The first step is to identify and assess the pest. What are you dealing with? How abundant are the pests? Is it appropriate to treat?
    2. Determine prevention and treatment options is step two.  “There are three different types of control options; you got biological, cultural and chemical,” says Dergou-soff. Biological control uses living organisms like predators or parasites to control the pests. Cultural control is focused on preventative measures and practices that reduce pest populations and frequency of outbreaks. For example, sanitation and manure removal can reduce sites favorable to the development of pests. Chemical control is a common method however producers must consider timing, mode, and class of insecticide used.
    3. Implement prevention and control measures is the third step.
    4. The final step is to monitor effectiveness. Did pest populations go down? Did they rebound? Is re-treatment necessary? Has animal behavior changed?
    Lice are common in beef herds, particularly during winter confinement. Lice can cause extreme stress to animals and cattle can expend a lot of energy dealing with rubbing, licking, and scratching. In severe cases, lice can even cause anemia.
    There are two different types of lice that affect beef cattle, chewing lice and sucking lice
    “There are things you can do to prevent getting lice,” explains Rochon. She recommends inspecting replacement animals, isolating any infested animals, monitoring your herd regularly and culling chronic carriers as useful preventative measures.
    Chemical control can be a valuable pest management strategy; however, it must be used carefully or it can lead to ineffective control or parasite resistance. Responsible chemical control practices include:
    •Always follow label directions;
    •Apply the correct pro-duct for the target species at the appropriate time of year and at the proper dosage;
    •Alternate using products with different modes of action and active ingredients;
    •Avoid applying spray- or pour-on products when it is colder than -10°C to prevent freezing and ineffective coverage;
    •Adjust dosage according to animal weight;
    •Avoid applying product to wet animals;
    •Keep good production records so you can quickly review products used in the past;
    •When controlling lice, avoid treating animals too early in the fall when temperatures are still warm;
    •Discuss pesticide se-lection and use with your veterinarian.
    A continued responsibility to understand external parasites, monitor their activity, and implement careful management and control strategies will help producers mitigate the impact of external pests on production, health and welfare.

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