Raising cattle in the Midwest poses a unique problem for producers at the end of every winter — how to reduce the economic drag of parasites on production during the coming year. It’s crucial to understand where the parasites live and how to get ahead of the problem with injectable parasite control before it’s time for turnout.

Parasites are, in effect, “that unseen money that you’re giving up,” said Dr. Brian Dorcey, veterinarian, beef technical services, Zoetis. “It’s a huge subclinical profit robber.”

Protect cows and calves from parasites

Stopping parasites starts with getting past a common misconception — that most parasites are in the cow’s gastrointestinal system — and understanding where they are located, with most of them in the grass, Dr. Dorcey said. And in spring, in the Midwest, the primary parasites that can infect a herd and impair a cow’s ability to gain weight are what Dr. Dorcey calls the “HOT complex” — Haemonchus, Ostertagia and Trichostrongylus spp.

“They’re the profit robbers,” he said.

But Dr. Dorcey also encourages producers and veterinarians to not forget about Cooperia and Nematodirus when developing a parasite control program, as these species can challenge calves later in the grazing season.

Dr. Dorcey likened the cows and calves in a herd to vacuum cleaners for an operation. With the vast majority of parasites in the grass, treating cows — and calves — with injectable parasite control before grazing offers the opportunity to proactively address the problem at turnout.

Dr. Dorcey stressed that calves should not be ignored when it comes to treatment, as they follow behind the cow and testing has shown calves sometimes have two to three times the fecal egg count as cows. It’s important to look at the whole animal unit.

Accurate weight drives accurate dosing

In Dr. Dorcey’s experience, many producers struggle to know the actual weight of their animals. He urges producers to avoid dosing based on averages — or what they believe is the animal’s weight.

“You need to know the weights and adjust accordingly, from the heaviest to the lightest weight animal,” Dr. Dorcey said. “We don’t want to underdose because it will impact the overall efficacy of the product.”

To learn more, contact your veterinarian or visit GetLessParasites.com for solutions from Zoetis.

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