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One would think in a drought as epic as this year’s, that worm larvae have a snowball’s chance of surviving. However, a drought does not play fair. Neither do parasites.
Somewhere around 70% of the nation’s beef cows are in areas that are feeling the effects of some degree of drought. Just as Southern Plains cattlemen did last year, many are considering early weaning. It’s a great strategy, Stokka says, because it lessens grazing pressure and gives the cows more opportunity, during a time of nutritional stress, to recover and begin cycling.
A Closer Look: Specialists Provide Advice On Early Weaning Calves
That also means ranchers can work their cattle earlier in the year. “My caution would be, when it’s hot like this, make sure you do it first thing in the morning,” Stokka says. “Don’t add heat stress to their processing stress.”
In fact, he says, if you vaccinated your calves at branding and aren’t vaccinating prior to weaning, consider waiting a while after weaning to revaccinate and deworm if possible.
“Always keep in mind what’s best for that animal – what’s best for its ability to fight off the stress and the pathogens that want to enter when you go through the weaning process,” Stokka says. “There’s no sense piling on heat stress. Weaning those calves in a low-stress manner is the best thing you can do. And wait until a little later to process them.”
Deworm twice a year
Kesterson and Stokka agree that both a fall- and spring-worming program will pay in better cattle performance. Done strategically, a worming program will successfully interrupt the life cycle of the parasites, keeping infestations at subclinical levels.
That’s why they also recommend a spring dose of wormer. Worms will overwinter in cold country and oversummer in hot country; since no dewormer is 100% effective, parasite control is an ongoing effort.
In the spring, Stokka recommends turning the cows out on green pasture, then bringing them back in 4-6 weeks later for worming. “As soon as she hits the grass, she’s going to start picking up worms,” he says. If you can wait until the worms complete their life cycle, you can clean both the cow and the pastures.
But not everybody can re-gather cows after turnout and work them. So the traditional management program is to worm them before turnout. “I think it’s critical that people who are turning them out at the same time they process use a dewormer with some residual so you have some protection for a time,” Stokka advises.
Parasite Management Tip: Deworming After Drought Needs A Targeted Approach
In Kesterson’s mind, strategic worming is important. “It seems to be a very good value,” he says. “The clients I work with who have the best overall results at the end of the year obviously do a lot of things right, but they’re typically also people who deworm. But people who seem to have the lingering, smoldering problems possibly have the opportunity to improve management practices, which may include deworming.”