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Pasture Plant Key to Improving Ruminant Health

Pasture Plant Key to Improving Ruminant Health

ARS finds additions to animal feed can thwart gastrointestinal nematodes.

A common pasture plant could help foraging ruminants ward off damaging gastrointestinal nematodes that can cause illness and death. The Agricultural Research Service reports that adding patented dry hay and pelleted forms of Sericea lespedeza, commonly referred to as Chinese bush clover, to animal feed helps thwart the reproductive cycles of gastrointestinal nematodes that are in the digestive tracts of goats and sheep.

Researchers at the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville, Arkansas report this pasture plant is particularly effective in controlling the barber pole worm, a nematode that attaches to the animals' abomasal wall and feeds on their blood. Female worms can produce more than 5,000 eggs per day that are shed in the animal's manure.

In the southern United States, goat production for meat or milk is an attractive alternative business for farmers because of the comparatively low cost of breeding stock, the high reproductive rate of goats, and the animals' ability to thrive on native pastures or brushland that is unsuitable for cropping. However, the major hindrance to economic goat production in this region is infection with gastrointestinal nematodes.

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