Monday, February 18, 2008

Sericea lespedeza to control parasites

For several years now, small ruminant researchers and parasitologists have been evaluating sericea lespedeza (Lespedeza cuneata) as an alternative to anthelmintics (chemical dewormers).

Sericea lespedeza is a perennial warm season legume that grows in acidic soils with low fertility. It is considered a noxious or invasive weed in some states. Sericea is rich in tannins. Though the mode of action is not fully understood, some plant tannins reduce parasite loads in sheep and goats.

Studies with sericea lespedeza have involved mature sheep and goats, as well as young lambs and kids. Sericea has been grazed as a fresh forage and fed as loose or ground hay. More recent studies have looked at feeding sericea as a pellet. The effects of sericea on both natural and acquired infections have been evaluated.

While results of the studies have varied, sericea lespedeza has generally been effective in controlling barber pole worm infections. The barber pole worm (Haemonchus contortus) is the primary worm parasite affecting sheep and goats in warm, moist climates, such as Maryland.

However, as with all methods of parasite control, producers should not rely on sericea as the sole method for controlling parasites. Parasite control requires an integrated approach that minimizes the use of chemical dewormers.

To learn more about the use of sericea lespedeza to help control parasites in sheep and goats, read the 2007 fact sheet, "Tools for managing internal parasites in small ruminants: sericea lespedeza." The fact sheet is a joint publication of NCAT/ATTRA and the Southern Consortium for Small Ruminant Parasite Control (SCSRPC).