- The warm wet conditions we've recently experienced provide a paradise for horse worm growth and development
- Heavy rains spreading worm eggs & larvae – more likely for horses to eat as these larvae travel to pasture away from manure
- Wet, warm conditions - consider an additional Fecal Egg Count or Wormer over this period
Its been dry as a chip, and Dorothea Mackellar's 'My Country' poem '...... of drought and flooding rains....' rings true as many of us have experienced such a quick turnaround in weather conditions. So lovely to see some pasture growth and spring in the ground - but the warm, wet conditions are a haven for horse worms.
Worms & Wet Weather
Put simply – horse worms love the wet as it facilitates the development to the next stage in their life cycle in paddocks and pasture, so now they will be waiting to find their way into your horse’s system.
Horse worm eggs and larvae need moisture. In Australia, that means they hate our summers with our hot dry conditions causing paddocks and manure to dry out quickly, slowing or even halting worm egg development into larvae.
Concentrating on survival means the eggs are not developing to the stage where as larvae, climb up a blade of grass to seek a ride in our horse’s gut. Heat and moisture promote larval migration to pasture and horses are at higher risk of acquiring an infection during and immediately after a wet period (Hutchinson G, Abba S, Mfitilodze M. Seasonal translation of equine strongyle infective larvae to herbage in tropical Australia)
We all know that horse’s don’t usually graze near their manure. Eggs and larvae rely on other ways to travel to the pasture horses eat. And one of the best carriers is heavy rain.
The recent wet weather around the east coast of Australia means that eggs and larvae may now have travelled far away from manure piles – up to 3 metres - and are now patiently waiting for a passing grazing horse.
In Australia, spring and autumn generally provide the best conditions for horse worm development in pasture. However the recent wet, warm conditions - means the perfect environment for worm egg & larvae development, significantly increasing the risk of parasite burdens.
What should I do?
Still aim to break the lifecycle of the worms mechanically as much as possible with pasture management - spelling, rotation with sheep & cattle and ensuring pasture isn’t overgrazed.
Don’t harrow manure in wet conditions – it only spreads the worms eggs & larvae.
Prevent larvae entering the pasture through removal of manure 2-3 times a week and ensure horses aren’t re-infecting themselves by conducting a fecal egg count and worming accordingly – or administering an additional wormer during these warm, wet conditions.
These actions will help ensure pasture worm burdens don’t rise to a level where they might be damaging to horse health.
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