Skip to main content

Worms! They Just Keep Coming!

By February 2, 2018 November 17th, 2023 No Comments

By Dr. Jacob Hammon

“Worms!” Such a powerful word in our minds, it leads us to fond images of wriggling worms happy to live in and off our furry friends.  How dare they rob our pets of the best days of their lives, these free-loaders!  For some owners a zero tolerance policy is the only policy, for others – nature will find the weaker critters and eventually only the strongest survive… Both have their merits and both are making things worse. 

“Worms” or better said “Internal Parasites,” are part of this world and have found an existence that gives them opportunity to change our way of life.  Their presence comes at a great expense to us, not only in the dollar cost of managing them but also in the health of our family/herd/pet/and enjoyment of life.  These stowaways have a pretty cushy life goal: hatch, get eaten by a host, grow to adult, make thousands/millions of eggs, then to die when the host can’t support it anymore. Let’s paint a picture of the little guy for you.   

{Cue Slow Old Timey Harmonica Solo} 

  “I hatched from an egg, then began a slow crawl to the top – a pile of dirt, then onto a blade of grass, I can see my comrades have the same idea.  As I struggle to reach new heights, I start to get slower.  I haven’t been fed for so long, I barely made it three inches up before I felt the pains of crippling hunger – if it can’t find food soon I am done for! They said I have been out here for 3 months waiting for a sign, but it only took three days to have the biggest growth spurt from that tiny hatchling.  Luckily the morning dew has provided a nice pool to swim in, it’s crowded for now, I hope we get rescued soon.  Just now the strangest thing happened… like a full solar eclipse and a warm rush down a slide to a dark pit.  As I was swimming along to keep upright I was chomping along to anything that would keep me anchored. The most delicious wine filled my mouth, so much so that it began to billow past my lips and down my shirt.  If this isn’t heaven, I don’t know what is.  While I was busy feeding I noticed that some of my friends were making dugout homes to hibernate in.  I was too busy drinking all I could get my mouth on.  I started to feel full and before I knew it thousands of eggs were coming out my back end – such a relief to release the pressure.  Every now and then when a colleague of mine has had enough and left the feeding trough, another wakes out of hibernation and takes over.  That’s fine by me, these last four or five months have been a great buffet, and I know my million or more eggs have had a chance to know the life I’ve made.  I’ve done all I could and finally decided to let go of this place and call it an end.  Maybe one of my kids can continue in my place.” 

{Fade Out, Music Ends} 

This heartwarming story of a worm settler on the prairie leaves us several clues to predict and control the spread within our herds: 

 For one – these parasites make eggs that hatch, ammonia is an important factor in opening it for the larva to escape.  The manure that is decaying is starting the process – maybe we can remove the manure and concentrate it somewhere where your furry buddy can’t get exposed? (Manure management)   

For two – the larvae can crawl three inches up a blade of grass and wait to be consumed by the host.  Grass roots begin to be stunted when grazed closer than 3 inches to the soil.  Two birds/one stone – Keep animals from grazing short grass (eating the larvae) while keeping the grass roots healthy. (Pasture management)   

For three – internal parasites rob the animal of digestive function and blood supply.  Keep checking your animals for body condition and activity/color.  Screen those individuals that are the worst affected to keep the herd health average stable.  (Treat only those needing treatment)  Fecal egg counts can give everyone an idea of the variety of parasites and the severity of infestation in your herd.   

For four – when some parasite populations are encysted(dormant in gut tissue), one treatment will not cure the problem.  As soon as you got those easy buggers eating all the product, the sleeping ones wake up and replace them tomorrow.  Fecal testing 10-21 days after a worming trial will ensure that the product you chose has done the job.  If an egg count shows before treatment numbers are reduced by 90% after a worming, CONGRATULATIONS!!!  You get a gold star!  If your egg count is less than 90% reduced, we will help you to turn that frown upside down.   

Occasionally people can pick the wrong product for the job, pick the lowest costing product (even though it is half as effective), and a lot of the time the animals spit out the wormer as soon as you let them go. On one end you were saving money, on the other hand now you spent it and the parasites are still there.  By changing how you think about and use wormers, we can make up for all of these problems. 

I hope you have been entertained by this information!  I can go on for another hour about how to put together a parasite control plan (a few have gone cross-eyed before when I have), but everything starts somewhere.  If you can grasp what is above then together we can work towards making sure you are working to raise those animals, not the worms.  Ultimately your family/farm/herd will need to come up with a wellness health philosophy – please spend some time with us to develop one that keeps your wallet full and your animals thriving.  

Leave a Reply