Identifying and controlling external and internal parasites in beef cattle can be a challenging task, especially in Coastal Texas where the threat of Texas Cattle Fever remains a viable concern for cattle producers.

With dry, hot conditions escalating along the Texas coast, the risk of tick infestation and pressure from other parasites becomes more critical and early identification and treatment can mean the difference between avoiding serious animal health problems and economic losses in South Texas cattle operations.

A one-hour online Webinar June 7 is designed to address parasite problems and to help producers in evaluating the risks of parasite related trouble early on. The webinar is part of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s ecosystem science and management unit’s monthly webinar series and will be led by Dr. Joe Paschal, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist in Corpus Christi.

“I’m getting a few calls about this from as far away as Louisiana and Oklahoma, but the target audience is primarily growers in the coastal region of Texas. After 35 years of dealing with this problem in my own cattle, I think it is a good idea to freshen up on the basics and to examine the latest methods being recommended to deal with parasites in general,” Paschal told Southwest Farm Press.

Paschal says the webinar will addressinternal and external parasites of livestock, primarily beef cattle, including methods of control and economic impact. Paid participants can earn Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units online ($10 per participant), but the event is free of charge for all others.

“Internal and external parasites are not just pests to control, many of them can carry contagious diseases to other animals,” Paschal said. “Livestock, horses, dogs and even humans are at risk for disease transmission or parasitism from many of these parasites.”

Blood-sucking insects can transmit a variety of diseases just as easily as contaminated needles or surgical instruments, he said. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on the control of external and internal parasites through chemical control, yet these parasites continue to exist.

“Many of those dollars were spent using the wrong product targeting the wrong parasite at the wrong dose on overcrowded pastures and pens,” Paschal said.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Animal Science and Food Technology at Texas Tech University, since cattle are exposed to parasites unless completely confined, parasitism is a problem all producers must face. The economic impact of production losses caused by internal parasites varies, depending on geographical areas, weather conditions, types of worms, level of parasite exposure, parasite control programs and pasture management. Age, diet, health status, stage of lactation or gestation and level of production affect an animal’s response to parasites. Cattle may or may not show visible signs of parasites, and a decline in efficiency can be easily overlooked.

Parasite infestation affects the entire herd. In cow-calf groups, adult animals contaminate young animals. Young cattle are more apt to show visible signs related to parasite contamination, such as slow weight gain and weight loss. Calves under one year of age are more susceptible than older cattle. Older cattle frequently have been exposed to the parasites and developed a degree of immunity.

Clinical parasite infections include diarrhea, anemia, sunken flanks, rough coats and bottle jaw. Subclinical parasite infections include suboptimal performance, missing calf, missing milk, increased time to breeding and greater disease susceptibility.

The webinar is scheduled from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 7. This webinar, as well as others in the 2011 and 2012 series, can be accessed at http://naturalresourcewebinars.org.