Sheep and Goat Farmers Could Block Parasites

Sheep. Source: Perry Rech, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

By adopting IPM strategies farmers can reduce the impact of internal parasites in sheep and goats and take advantage of valuable New England pastureland to grow their industry.

So says the New England Small Ruminant IPM Working Group, directed by Jennifer Hashley of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project at Tufts University, Rosario Delgado-Lecaroz of County Veterinarian Services, and Samuel W. Anderson of New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. The working group, supported by the Northeastern IPM Center, consists of 10 members, among them sheep and goat farmers, farm service providers, scientists, extension experts, veterinarians, and nonprofit organization members.

The working group has studied the use of IPM practices with small ruminant farmers. They surveyed 165 sheep and goat farmers to determine the most pressing animal health challenges and determined that they were, in order, internal parasites, foot rot/scald, mastitis, external parasites, and predation.

From the survey, the working group found that many producers have adopted FAMACHA, a diagnostic tool to help farmers identify parasite infection in small ruminants. However, other important IPM strategies for internal parasite management, such as fecal egg counts and selecting for parasite-resistant animals, have not yet been widely used. If these practices are embraced by a greater number of small ruminant farmers, there would almost certainly be a decrease in the number and severity of present challenges.

Another issue faced by small ruminant farmers is whether or not the animals should be allowed to graze in the field. “A common phrase uttered by New England veterinarians,” say the authors, “is if you don’t want to deal with internal parasites, don’t raise your sheep or goats on pasture.” While eliminating grazing on pasture does stop the spread of the parasite Haemonchus contortus, this approach requires feed to be brought to the animals from elsewhere.

Yet New England has a great deal of land that is well-suited for pasture. “Making use of this land,” say the authors, “rather than growing and transporting feed, greatly reduces the environmental impact of raising sheep or goats; and in many cases, pasture production would be far less feasible without the use of IPM strategies to manage H. contortus.”


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