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Addressing parasitism in the Intermountain West

Small ruminant animal production loss from barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) infection is well-documented in the Southeast and Northeast regions of the USA. At present, the extent of Barber Pole Worm infection in Inter-Mountain West flocks is unknown. However, there is growing suspicion that the geographical range of H. contortus infection is increasing and that resistance to deworming agents is on the rise. This phenomena will be accentuated as small, irrigated flocks increase and also as larger sheep operations are shifted from range to irrigated pasture production systems. For these reasons, the need for a proactive defense against H. contortus has been recognized.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will collaborate with Montana State University (MSU) Sheep Extension to (1) conduct applied research on the severity of Barber Pole infection and associated anthelmintic resistance and (2) conduct Integrative Parasite Management (IPM) training in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Patterned directly after highly successful IPM trainings in the Southeast United States, this training will instruct county extension agents, veterinarians, and producers on the potential risks associated with rising internal parasite infection rates and proven IPM methodologies to combat them.

The long term goals of this project are: (1) survey sheep producer’s perceptions as to the severity of internal parasite infection, (2) quantify the prevalence of H. contortus present through fecal egg counting on sheep operations, (3) employ the DrenchRite® assay to ascertain the degree of resistance to anthelmintic drugs on these operations, and most notably, (4) assist producers through a series of Train the Trainer sessions directed at enabling ag professionals and veterinarians to effectively train producers in all aspects of Integrated Parasite Management at the farm level.

In its initial phase, this project will produce basic preliminary field data on the H. contortus infection rate and anthelmintic efficacy in the inter-mountain states of MT, WY, and UT. Written producer surveys at woolgrower conferences will also indicate the perceived severity of the parasites in their operations. Additionally, this project will produce a number of educational tools and other forms of outreach specific to the Inter-Mountain West region. Its most prominent product will be six Train the Trainer sessions designed to train extension agents and veterinarians in IPM. Specific instruction will include creating parasite refugias through FAMACHA© scoring, conducting fecal egg counts, implementing grazing protocols to limit infection, and on-farm genetic selection strategies to maximize animal resilience to internal parasites.

One of these Train the Trainer sessions will be videoed and made available for online viewing on both the ATTRA and MSU websites. Presentations at woolgrower conferences in MT, WY, and UT will be conducted to educate sheep producers about the potential severity of the strongyle parasite problem and IPM. One online webinar, Preventing Small Ruminant Internal Parasites from Ravaging Your Flock, reaching a national audience, will do the same. Additionally, NCAT will develop supportive tip sheets for use by educators and producers alike. This project is proactive in nature. It is in response to a rising western sheep production threat and utilizes lessons learned from the small ruminant industry in the Southeast USA. Mitigation of internal parasites will remove a production barrier to new and existing sheep operations that graze irrigated pastures. It is our hope that this will contribute to propelling the Western sheep industry forward.

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