They're gross, stretchy and wiggly. My daughter would rather run screaming than deal with them in any way, shape or form whatsoever. They cost you feed, production and livestock. What are we talking about? Worms.
I had an instructor in college who pointed out, quite logically, that though we regularly refer to as worming is actually deworming; you don't want to give give the animal worms; you're trying to get rid of them instead. The writer in me caught onto that pretty quickly. So let's take a few minutes to talk about deworming our pigs:
A good deworming schedule is one that takes care of the problem when it's needed. There are specific times that you don't want parasites to be a problem: before breeding, before farrowing, at weaning and during times of stress. During these times, parasites can take advantage of conditions in your pig's system to grow and reproduce, creating more problems such as anemia, weight loss and poor condition.
Husbandry can make a huge difference in parasite management, including cleaning areas your pigs hang out at, feeding off the ground and eliminating the pigs that are the worst carriers in your barnyard and keeping their young out of your breeding program.
To take care of this problem, using anthelmintics (deworming medications) to reduce or completely eliminate the parasites typically works well. There are a number of anthelmintics of both chemical and more natural means that are very effective, provided that they are rotated to help prevent a population of resistant parasites from developing on your farm.
What is a resistant parasite? When a parasite isn't killed by a deworming medication, not only does it survive, it thrives. The competition it had for nutrients and space has suddenly gone away, leaving it free to breed more resistant parasites, creating a vicious cycle. It's not that the worm has suddenly grown resistant to the medication as much as the ones that can survive it are the ones who are now breeding, an example of Darwin's theory of evolution at its finest.
The worms that are often targeted in pigs include ascarids, whipworms, nodular worms, lung worms, kidneyworms and strongyles. Among effective chemical anthelmintics are fenbendazole, ivermectin, levamisole and pyrantel. These medications treat different worms, so it's important to work with your veterinarian to develop a schedule that will work best for your farm, climate and regional issues. Your veterinarian may have additional recommendations based on threats in your area.
Parasites cost money, production and time; proper deworming helps keep them in check and your farm profitable.
Image courtesy of the International Livestock Research Institute.