Treating calves for parasites

By Todd Vineyard | Published Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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Over the past 20 to 35 years trials in Texas beef herds have demonstrated that treating nursing calves and the dams for internal parasites increases weaning weights.

Most of these trials were conducted in spring calving herds in central Texas. Various wormers were used, including Dectomax, Safe-Guard and Ivomec, and treatments were administered to calves and dams. Treated and untreated pairs were pastured together. Treatments were usually given in May, June or July when the average weights of groups of calves ranged from 200 to 350 pounds.

Many trials have been conducted over the years concluding that weaning weights of treated calves averaged 25 pounds over the untreated calves.

Researchers at Texas A&M agree that there is no need to perform fecal counts to decide whether to deworm nursing calves. They will be parasitized and they will benefit from being treated.

The bottom line is the relationship of benefit to cost. The average benefit is the income from the 25 extra pounds of production and the cost is the sum of the expense of working the cattle plus the wormer costs. Wormers can cost as little as $2 per head up to $4 per head. With the high prices of today’s calves, deworming should bring an additional profit of $25 to $30 per calf at weaning.

Deworming nursing beef calves is highly profitable for Texas producers, but fewer than 10 percent currently use the practice.

Deciding to deworm or not to deworm nursing calves is easy. Don’t worry about whether your neighbor’s calves are infected with gastrointestinal parasites. They are! Deworming will increase profits.

Todd Vineyard is a Wise County Extension agent.

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