APRIL AND MAY are excellent times of the year to de-worm the beef cattle herd. Warm, moist conditions signal the brown stomach worm to become more active and come out of the inhibited stage. The brown stomach worm becomes much easier to kill at this stage and de-worming becomes more effective.
Internal parasites are a constant cause of lost productivity because practically all cattle and most pastures are infected. Of the nine internal parasites that infest cattle, the brown stomach worm is the most important. It is the most damaging internal parasite of cattle throughout Arkansas and the Mid-South.
Demonstrations by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service found that calves that were de-wormed were 35 pounds heavier at weaning than the control animals. Both sets of cattle were grazing pastures with only limited supplementation. In other research studies, where cattle were being finished, the gain differences were even greater.
Because young cattle are especially vulnerable to parasites, they should be de-wormed whether or not any other animals are treated. They will respond better and become more productive with a regular de-worming program.
It is not practical or even possible to eliminate all parasites from cattle. However, a good pasture management and treatment program will help keep parasite populations manageable. Treating beef cattle in April and again in September has worked well in our part of Arkansas.
Rotation of cattle between pastures will also help. After cattle have been de-wormed, placing them on “clean” pastures will keep down re-infections. To reduce parasite loads on pastures, keep cattle off these pastures for three to four weeks.
Many excellent dewormers are available on the market. Today's cattleman has the best selection of the most effective and safest anthelmintics to date. Using them properly with better timing will go a long way toward increasing the herd's productivity.
Joe Vestal of Lewisville, Ark., is an Extension agent for Lafayette County, Ark.