The Challenge of Parasite Control

Every sheep farmers wants healthy thriving sheep. The geographical location of the sheep and the sheep farmer poses different challenges. In North Central Texas where I live one of the biggest challenges to the health of the sheep is internal parasites. The warm humid weather all year, the life cycle of parasites is not broken, and parasites are on the ground ready to enter the sheep at anytime.

I have heard and been told to deworm my sheep every 30 days with a different dewormer and I will not have a problem. My first year I did as I had been told, to only have major parasite problems the next year. Some of my ewes were so bad, I contacted my veterinarian for information and maybe help to form a plan to combat this challenge of internal parasites.

The first thing I learned was how to read FAMACHA scores. By looking at the lower inner eye lid of each sheep to see how pink or white, I can tell if my sheep need deworming. My veterinarian told me to use one class of dewormer until it not longer worked. By deworming my sheep every 30 days with a different dewormer, the internal parasites had developed a resistance to the dewormers. I have replaced deworming with reading FAMACHA scores on my sheep every 30 days.

Along with deworming only when I needed to, I started putting food grade diatomaceous earth in the grain for a week each month. I learned of using diatomaceous earth on an organic website. The diatomaceous earth is supposed to kill the parasite larva in the intestines.

To break the life cycle of the internal parasites, especially barbed pole worm that I was having major problems with, I started pasture rotation. I allow the sheep to graze one area only for 30 days, then move them to another area that has not been grazed on for over 30 days.

There is a genetic internal parasite resistant characteristic in sheep DNA. When I do a FAMACHA score on my sheep, I record what the score for that sheep is. If I need to deworm I record that as well. Then I track the scores and deworming and sale sheep that I have to deworm more often than the average. I consider these to not be able to resist internal parasites as well as others.

Has my plan worked? Is taking all these steps been beneficial to reaching my breeding goals and financial goals of my sheep farming?

I think the plan has worked. I dewormed my whole flock twice in 2022. I do not have the physical sign of internal parasite of my sheep exhibiting bottle jaw. My lambs are growing and gaining weight really well.

Every climate and geographic area has its own set of challenges concerning internal parasites. Contact a veterinarian in your area to form a plan of internal parasite control for your sheep.


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