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May 2014
Sericea lespedeza for natural control of coccidiosis



by Susan Schoenian
Sheep & Goat Specialist
University of Maryland Extension

Sericea lespedeza (SL) has been scientifically proven to reduce barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) infections in sheep and goats [1]. The condensed tannins contained in the lespedeza are credited with control, though the mechanism is not fully understood. Control has been achieved when animals consume SL as either fresh forage, dry hay, or leaf meal pellets.

During various studies, researchers noticed that SL-fed animals also had cleaner hindquarters and required fewer treatments for coccidiosis [2]. This has led to more recent investigations into the effects of sericea lespedeza on Eimeria spp. (coccidia) infections in lambs and kids.

The results of three experiments were published last year in Veterinary Parasitology. In the first experiment, weaned lambs were fed either alfalfa (control) or SL pellets, with or without amprolium (Corid®) added to their drinking water. In the second experiment, lambs were fed a control or SL creep supplement before and after weaning. In the third experiment, weaned lambs were fed a control or SL supplement and inoculated with 50,000 sporulated oocysts.

In the first experiment, while fecal (coccidia) oocyst and (worm) egg counts were similar, the control lambs had higher fecal (dag) scores than the SL-fed lambs, suggesting more signs of coccidiosis [2]. Oocyst counts declined more rapidly in amprolium-treated lambs. In experiment 2, fecal oocyst counts decreased after weaning in the SL-fed lambs and remained lower.


Post-weaning coccidiosis treatment was required in 33% of the control lambs, but none of the SL-fed

lambs [2]. In the third experiment, oocyst and egg counts were reduced in the SL-fed lambs, compared with control-fed lambs [2].


Findings from a similar study were recently reported in an abstract published by the Journal of Animal Science. At Fort Valley State University, weaned bucklings were assigned to two treatment groups, based on Eimeria oocyst counts. They were fed either a control or SL diet. After 7 days, the SL diet reduced oocyst and worm egg counts by 96.9 and 78.7% respectively, as compared to the animals fed the control diet [5]. There was no difference in packed cell volume (PCV) between the two treatment groups [5]. Fecal scores were not recorded and there was no indication as to whether any kids required treatment for coccidiosis.

Collectively, these studies show that sericea lespedeza has the potential for reducing coccidiosis in lambs and kids. The findings should be of particular interest to organic producers, who lack control options for coccidia.

Researchers recommend that SL be fed 1-2 weeks before weaning and 3-4 weeks after weaning. Recommendations for longer term feeding are contingent upon the mineral status of the flock/herd, as SL may affect trace mineral status and growth rates of lambs/kids.


About sericea lespedeza

Sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) is a perennial, warm season legume (forb) that can be grown on soils too acidic or infertile to support other forage legumes. It is classified as a noxious weed in some states, due to its invasive nature and lack of palatability for cattle.

Not all varieties of sericea lespedeza are equal, nor have been tested for parasite control [3]. AU Grazer™, a improved variety developed by Auburn University, tolerates grazing better than other varieties and has been shown to be effective at controlling barber pole worm infections [3].

While anyone can grow sericea lespedeza on their own farm, Sims Brothers (in Union Springs, Alabama) is the sole source of Certified AU Grazer® sericea lespedeza seed and pellets. Sims Brothers has dealers located in several states in the Southeast. They are sold out of sericea lespedeza pellets until June 2014 [4].

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