February 2016 | Farm Partners Sought for the Penn State Parasite Research Project
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Farm Partners Sought for the Penn State
Parasite Research Project

February 2016

Equine gastrointestinal parasites, and their increasing resistance to available dewormers, are a major concern in the equine industry. Taking a whole-farm approach to managing parasites can decrease the frequency of deworming, eliminate the use of products that have become ineffective, help you learn which horses have natural resistance and which ones are “shedders”, and help decrease the development of resistance to dewormers.  Routinely deworming with the same products, or simply rotating dewormers, is not the best method and can contribute to the development of parasites that are resistant to the products that we use.  Since no new products are on the immediate horizon, if resistance continues to progress at the present rate, the equine industry may face a major crisis.

A grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture and Education program is enabling the PSU Equine Extension team to travel across the state educating horse owners about strategic deworming and non-drug based parasite control methods.

Dr. Martin Nielsen, DVM, PhD, DACVM, DEVCP, a world renowned parasitologist with the Gluck Institute in Kentucky is serving as a consultant for the project. In a September article on the race against parasite resistance, Dr. Nielsen said of the Penn State project, “the initiative and energy will change a lot of things in the state for the better. It could be a fabulous model for other states.  Why not Kentucky?  Why not every state?”

Farm owners interested in participating in the project must first attend the “Managing Parasite Resistance Using a Whole Farm Approach” course.  The program will be offered March 12th at Delaware Valley University, Doylestown, PA; March 19th at the York County Extension Office; March 8th at the Best Western Conference Center, Bethlehem; and April 16th at West Central Equipment in Butler County.  The course runs from 9 AM-3:30 PM. Cost is $45 per person and includes lunch and materials. Advance registration is required at least one week prior to each class.  The course is open to horse owners, barn managers, equine industry personnel, veterinarians and vet technicians.

Ed Jedrzejewski, DVM and Penn State Equine Farm Manager, will describe the major gastrointestinal parasites in horses. Dr. Jedrzejewski has used targeted deworming practices on the Penn State University Quarter Horse herd since 2009.  “We found significant resistance to the Benzimidazoles such as Panacur and Safeguard and developing resistance to Pyrantel.  Using strategic based deworming practices, we were able to decrease our use of dewormers by 79% while maintaining the quality of our parasite control,” he said. 

Donna Foulk, Equine Natural Resources Educator with Penn State Extension, will discuss how resistance develops and parasites and the environment, covering the effects of temperature and moisture on parasite levels, whether to harrow or not, and pasture and manure management practices to reduce parasite exposure. Heather Stofanak and equine team members will discuss the research project, present information gleaned from the farms enrolled in 2015, and teach farm owners to prepare samples and conduct fecal egg counts. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of working with the owners' veterinarian to build a customized plan for each person's individual farm. 

Those attending the course will have an option to be one of 40 farms involved as an “Equine Team Parasite Research Partner”.  Participants will meet three times in 2016 at sites equipped with microscopes and the other supplies needed to conduct fecal egg counts.  The data will show which horses on the farm are high shedders and low shedders of small strongyle eggs.   High shedders will be dewormed using predetermined dewormers and will be rechecked after two weeks to determine the efficacy of the product. This year-long involvement will increase horse owners’ and farm managers’ ability to make educated decisions concerning parasite control on their own farm.

In 2015, 57 farm partners from 19 PA counties enrolled 419 horses in the project.  By the end of the summer, 100% of project partners identified the high shedders on their farm, increased their confidence in strategic deworming practices, and started to conduct fecal egg counts on new horses on the farm. Ninety-five percent were able to determine products effectiveness on their farm, felt empowered to make good management decisions, and reduced their fear of parasites.

For a brochure email dlf5@psu.edu or haf10@psu.edu, call (610) 746-1970 or visit http://extension.psu.edu/animals/equine.