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Fundamentals of Strategic Parasite Control Programs:
by Lora Rickard Ballweber, MS,DVM
 

 
Date: May 5, 2009

INTRODUCTION

The study of factors affecting the distribution and maintenance of disease agents in the environment is called epidemiology.  Understanding the epidemiology of parasites provides the foundation upon which we design effective prevention and control programs.  Without this information, we cannot use all the tools available to us to control both the adult worms in the host and the larvae on pasture.  As a result, we tend to become dependent strictly on deworming, which becomes a matter of conven-ience and usually has little impact on the parasite population and little economic value.

We are fortunate when it comes to South American camelids because, with a few exceptions, their gastrointestinal parasites are substantially the same as those that live in other North American livestock.  Consequently, the numerous studies on the epidemiology of cattle and sheep parasites done in the >70s and >80s can give us insights into design of appropriate control  programs for these parasites in llamas/alpacas.

The life cycle patterns of the gastrointestinal nematodes we deal with are generally similar.  They are short and direct (do not require an intermediate host).  Eggs passed in the feces usually hatch in 24 hours under optimal environmental conditions.  The first-stage larva molts to a second-stage larva which molts to the third-stage larva (infective stage).  Once the infective larva is ingested by the animal, the time for development to sexually mature adult nematodes is 2 to 4 weeks for most genera.

         
In a broad sense, the factors dictating the level and extent of parasitism are climate, management conditions of pasture and animals, and the population dynamics of the parasites within the host and in the external environment.  For the purpose of describing the effect of seasonal climatic differences and management conditions, parasite populations are divided into three components.  The largest component, numerically, is the population of free-living stages on the pasture.  The  next largest component is the number of infective larvae on pasture that are available to the host.  The smallest component is the number of parasites actually present in the host.  Pasture contamination with parasite eggs is a continuous process throughout the year, but hatching of eggs, development of larvae through the free-living to the infective stage, distribution onto herbage and survival on pasture differs during the course of a year.  The prevailing weather conditions are the primary factors influencing these differences.  Changing weather patterns results in fluctuations and discontinuities in the numbers of infective larvae available to the grazing animal in different seasons.  The effect of extreme weather conditions also has an effect on the animals themselves as well as forage growth and quality.  This, in turn, will also influence the general health of the animals and their susceptibility to parasitism.

Temperature is the primary factor regulating the hatching of eggs and development of larvae.  All stages can be killed by extremely low temperatures as well as exposure to direct sunlight.  Moisture also influences the ....
 
 

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  2009 Articles

5/05 Fundamentals of Strategic Parasite Control Programs

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