The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence and practices used to manage internal helminth parasites and external arthropod parasites on organic and conventional dairy herds in Minnesota. All organic (ORG) dairy herds in Minnesota (n = 114) and a convenience sample of conventional herds were invited to participate in the study. Thirty-five ORG herds and 28 conventional herds were visited once in summer and fall of 2012. Conventional dairy herds were split into small conventional (SC, < 200 cows) and medium-sized conventional herds (MC, ≥200 cows) so that SC herds were comparable in size to the ORG herds. Dairy managers were surveyed to assess their farm management practices and perceptions about parasites, hygiene scores were recorded for adult stock, and fecal samples were collected from a nominal 20 breeding-age heifers to characterize abundance of internal parasites. Nonparametric tests were used to compare fecal egg counts per gram (FEC) among farms grouped by management systems and practices. Organic farms had more designated pasture and were more likely to use rotational grazing compared with conventional farms, but the stocking densities of animals on pasture were similar among farm types. The overall FEC were very low, and only a few individual ORG heifers had FEC >500 eggs/gram. Samples from heifers on ORG farms had significantly more strongyle-type eggs than those on SC and MC farms (ORG: 6.6 ± 2.1; SC: 0.5 ± 0.3; MC: 0.8 ± 0.7), but egg counts of other types of gastrointestinal parasites did not differ significantly among the 3 herd groups. Fly control measures were applied mainly to milking cows and preweaned calves and were used on 88.6% of ORG herds, 60.0% of SC herds, and 91.7% of MC herds. Approximately half of the producers reported having seen skin conditions suggestive of lice or tail mange in their cattle during the previous winter (ORG: 48.6%, SC: 57.1%, MC: 53.9%). Although most conventional producers reported treating these skin conditions, most organic producers stated they had not treated them. In conclusion, gastrointestinal parasite egg counts were low overall at the time of the survey, and most surveyed producers did not perceive gastrointestinal parasites to be a problem for their animals’ health. Independent of the herd type, fly control was mostly targeted at the lactating herd and preweaned calves.
- dairy cattle;
- gastrointestinal parasite;
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