Don’t Skip Fall Deworming

By: Jill J. Dunkel

Deworming is typically part of spring works, but one veterinarian says it’s just as important to also deworm in the fall. It’s simple economics going into winter – do you want to buy feed for your cow or her parasites?

As fall approaches and many ranchers are purchasing or putting up feed for the winter months, Marc Campbell, DVM, says in some parts of the country fall deworming could be more economically important than in the spring. Campbell is a Technical Services Veterinarian for Bayer Animal Health and says deworming is a good way to economize going into the winter months.

“We want to feed the cow, not the worms. Deworming can keep the cow in good body condition so she’s more likely to calve in better body condition and ultimately breed back better,” he says. “If she can maintain that body condition through the winter, it will help come spring calving.”

Even in the south where you find some fall calving operations, it still makes sense. “Cattle may pick up parasites in the fall and winter, especially in the southern states. They get more rain and it’s warmer so parasites are less likely to go dormant.”

Campbell says even in the south, most operations purchase some sort of protein to feed in the winter. Cleaning up the livestock going into the fall just makes economic sense. It’s also a good time to treat for lice and liver flukes, depending on the region.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, lice can reduce weight gains by as much as 0.21 lb/day in calves and hurt body condition scores in adult livestock. In fact, the USDA estimates that livestock producers lose up to $125 million per year due to the effects of lice infestations.

“Worms are a main problem we see everywhere. It’s a universal issue. Lice can be an issue throughout the country but are most problematic in the Northern states.” Other problems, like flukes, are more regional,” Campbell comments. He encourages producers to talk to their veterinarian to see what is recommended for their particular situations, for example, moxidectin, which is available in pour-on or injectable.

Campbell says deworming stockers this time of year is also critically important.

“We are going for gain in stockers. We want to get them as clean as we can before they go out on pasture. It’s good to use a dewormer with persistency in those cattle.” He says they are likely to pick up parasites in the pasture, especially in the fall and spring.

Stockers headed to wheat pasture are a slightly different scenario, Campbell explains. “You want them parasite free going out, but they aren’t as likely to pick up parasites on tilled pastures,” he says. Plowing prior to planting buries the parasites. However, a no-till situation is similar to a fall grass situation. There, calves could pick up just as many parasites as on pasture.

Lice is also important to treat on wheat pasture cattle.

“Once calves are turned out, if lice is a problem they go to rubbing. They get under a hot wire fence, or will tear stuff up trying to scratch,” he explains. That and the loss of gain justify treatment.

Regardless of the situation – cow/calf or stockers – deworming livestock in the fall is economically important and sets an operation up for success the rest of the year.