Penn State looking for horse farm partners in deworming project

Grazing horses
Horse grazing

BUTLER, Pa. — Equine gastrointestinal parasites, and their increasing resistance to available dewormers, are a major concern in the equine industry.

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, say equine specialists.

Taking a whole-farm approach to managing parasites can decrease the frequency of deworming, eliminate the use of products that are no longer effective on your farm, help you learn which horses have natural resistance and which ones are “shedders,” and help decrease the development of resistance to dewormers.

Penn State research

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.

Farm owners interested in participating in the project must first attend the Managing Parasite Resistance Using a Whole Farm Approach course. The day-long program will be held April 16 at West Central Equipment, 170 Pittsburgh Road, Butler, Pennsylvania. The course runs from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and the cost is $35 per person, which includes lectures, lunch and materials. Advance registration is required by Monday, April 11.

For a brochure and registration form, contact Donna Zang at or 724-287-4761.

The course is open to all interested horse owners, barn managers, equine industry personnel, veterinarians and vet technicians.

Targeted deworming

A key speaker will be Ed Jedrzejewski, veterinarian and Penn State Equine Farm manager, who will describe the major gastrointestinal parasites in horses. Jedrzejewski has used targeted deworming practices on the Penn State University Quarter Horse herd since 2009. They have conducted fecal samples on every horse every month since February 2009.

“After a couple years of monitoring fecals, all of the concepts mentioned by proponents of targeted deworming were clearly obvious in our herd,” Jedrzejewski said. “We had significant resistance to the benzimidazoles such as Panacur and Safeguard and developing resistance to Pyrantel.”

Using strategic based deworming practices, Jedrzejewski was able to decrease the farm’s use of dewormers by 79 percent while maintaining the quality of our parasite control.

Donna Foulk, Equine Natural Resources Educator with Penn State Extension, will demonstrate how resistance develops and will discuss parasites and the environment, covering issues such as the effects of temperature and moisture on parasite levels, whether to harrow or not, and pasture and manure management practices to reduce parasite exposure.

What they’ve learned

In the afternoon, Heather Stofanak and other members of the equine team will discuss the research project, will present information gleaned from the farms enrolled in 2015, and will help farm owners learn to prepare samples and conduct fecal egg counts.

In 2015, the project had 57 farm partners from 19 counties enrolling 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.

Seeking 40 farms

Those attending this year’s course will have an option to be involved as an Equine Team Parasite Research Partner. In 2016, the Penn State equine team is seeking 40 farms to enroll as farm partners. Whole herd fecal egg counts will be conducted by the farm partners three times a year. The data will allow the farm owners to determine which horses on the farm are high shedders and which ones are low shedders of small strongyle eggs.

Horses that are identified as high shedders will be dewormed using predetermined dewormers and will be rechecked after two weeks to determine the efficacy of the product on the farm.


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