Pennsylvania Extension Promotes Equine Parasite Control

Removing manure from pastures in a timely manner can help parasite control. Kimberly S. Brown

Much like horses, owners are commonly creatures of habit. We feed and water our horses, muck their stalls, turn them out and put them to bed at pretty much the same time every day. The farrier and dentist are scheduled routinely, and dewormers are administered based on the calendar month. According to experts, however, it’s time to teach old dogs news tricks and encourage horse owners to adopt newer deworming protocols.

“Over the past decade or so, internal parasites such as small strongyles—also called cyathostomes—have gained resistance to most classes of chemical dewormers. Today, those dewormers are either not as effective or totally ineffective, leaving horses at risk for parasite-related diseases such as ill thrift, poor hair coats, colic and diarrhea,” noted Donna Foulk, PhD, an extension educator from Penn State Extension.

The major factor contributing to resistance, according to Foulk, is “indiscriminate use of dewormers.” To empower horse owners to make appropriate and effective changes to their deworming practices, Foulk and colleagues created a comprehensive management short course called “Managing Equine Parasites Using a Whole Farm Approach.” The goal was to have participants adopt at least two new practices to reduce parasite burdens on pastures, including the following:

  • Remove manure from pastures;   
  • Improve pasture quality to reduce grazing in manure deposition areas;
  • Rotate pastures after deworming;
  • Compost manure before applying to pastures;
  • Use fecal egg counts to strategically deworm only horses that are shedding high numbers of eggs.

These goals were adopted from the key concepts described in the latest version of the Parasite Control Guidelines produced by the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Developed in 2014, the first courses were offered in 2015. Of the 164 participants, 92% adopted two or more practices to reduce parasite burdens and 10% adopted at least one practice. This information can help you help your owners to reduce parasite burdens through management.

The Pennsylvania Parasite Project continues in 2016 and 2017, supporting horse owners and farm managers in their quest to adopt modern parasite control strategies rather than simply deworming with potentially ineffective products every eight weeks. Data is being collected regarding fecal egg counts, ineffective deworming products and the use of pasture management and composting.

For more information on the project, please contact Donna Foulk at [email protected]

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the fall 2016 issue of EquiManagement magazine.

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