Well-managed grazing, including leaving 4 to 5 inches of grass behind, can help reduce the risk of cattle becoming infected with worms. (Photo by Robert Waggener)

If you’re in the cattle business, you’re also in the worm business.

Also, generally, the more worms you’ve got, the less pounds of cattle—and money in your pocket—you get.

Those are the words of Dr. Tom Yazwinski, who says that carrying out sound deworming strategies in beef and dairy cattle operations lead to much healthier cattle—and ultimately higher profits.

“Some producers have the mindset that the less money they put into their operations, whether it’s supplemental feed, antibiotics, dewormers or whatever, the more profit they’ll have at the end of the year,” says Yazwinski, a professor of animal science at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

“That is the prevailing sentiment on some farms in my part of the country, and I believe it’s that way across the United States,” Yazwinski says.

“And this is how I can respond to that sentiment: the more constructive money you put into your operation, the more you focus on the health of your animals, the more animal you will have to sell at the end of the day.”

He then emphasizes: “Good health regimes, good nutrition, good genetics, good breeding and good pasture management all pay. And a good deworming program is part of a good health program, and that’s where part of your profits will come from.”

Yazwinski says he has toured countless cow-calf, stocker, feeder and dairy operations where the animals would have definitely benefitted from “better” worm control, but it just wasn’t being done.

“With fly control, it’s pretty easy to see if your control program is working. In addition, you will quickly see if your antibiotics, vaccines, etc., are working. But with deworming, you can’t readily see if your anthelmintics or strategy for worm control are working unless your animals start showing signs of clinical parasitism,” he says.

“You don’t see the loss of feed efficiency. You don’t see the loss of production. You don’t see clinical signs of sickness.”

And when it comes to successful deworming, Yazwinski encourages beef and dairy cattle operators to arm themselves with information.

As boring as it might be, read bovine parasitology articles and books. Have honest conversations with your large-animal veterinarian and drug representatives and get their “do’s and don’ts” on drugs of choice and strategic deworming strategies.

“Many veterinarians will tell you that large animal (especially cow) parasitology was much skimped in vet school,” he says. “The producers should learn about the important parasites on their operations, what deworming scenarios are most appropriate, when to take fecal samples from the right animals at the right time, when to treat and what to use.”

The majority of helminths (a general term meaning ‘worms’) inhabit the intestinal tract of cattle. They disrupt the activity and function of the entire digestive system, from the abomasum to the large intestine.

“So regardless of what the animal eats, it will be negatively impacted by worms when it comes to feed efficiency,” Yazwinski says. “Another major effect of worms is anorexia. At a certain level of worm infection, animals eat less, and what they do eat is assimilated less because of the worm impact. And a third major effect of worms is that they diminish the immune capability of cattle. Other diseases ‘do better’ and vaccines ‘do worse’ when worms are involved.”

All combined, he emphasizes, “Feed efficiency, reproduction, health and weight gain are all diminished. Everything you are trying to achieve with your cattle is diminished because of the worms.”

Yazwinski adds, with emphasis: “Don’t allow worms to get the upper hand on your operation. By controlling worms, your animals will do better in all aspects, and that will pay you back in the long run.”