While a strong deworming protocol is important to the health of your horse herd, regardless if you have 1 or 20, the war against equine parasites cannot be fought by deworming drugs alone. There are other things you can do to help prevent your animals from ingesting the infective stages of parasites. Here are six suggestions that can help you eliminate the possibility of parasites on your property:
1. Separate horses into age groups
Adults are often the major source of infection for parasites, but young horses can be more prone to them. Young horses may have trouble competing for food in pastures and therefore, must eat whatever is left over. Often the remaining feed has been defecated on or trampled over.
2. Feed off the ground
Further to the above point, feeders in outdoor stabling and mangers or haynets in stalls can keep horses from eating off the ground. Eating off the ground is one of the best ways horses can ingest infective parasite larvae.
3. Avoid Overcrowding
Too many horses houses together is the number one way of infecting your herd with worms. Pastures or corrals can become contaminated with heaps of manure, especially around waterers and feeders.
4. Maintain Sanitation
Have your stalls cleaned often, let horses outside and try to prevent foals from eating manure or suckling the mare when she is dirty. Clean out your paddocks and corrals at least once a year with a bobcat and don’t allow “Mount Manure” to sit idle on your property for too long, especially if you aren’t practicing proper composting techniques.
5. Pasture Examinations
Rotate animals in pastures to prevent parasite build up, harrow your pastures often to expose larvae to sunlight and break up manure.
6. Fecal Egg Counts
It’s not a pretty job, but you really should do it. Fecal egg counts are microscopic examinations of eggs within an individual horse’s manure sample. Since they cannot be seen with the naked eye, samples must be collected and taken to a vet to be placed under the microscope. Your vet then can determine the type of parasites present and the number of eggs in the feces, which in turn is an indication of the number of adult parasites in the horse’s gut. Fecal egg counts can be done periodically to monitor your parasite control program throughout the year and determine its effectiveness.