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Home About Cattle Worms Worms on Pasture: Cattle

Worms on Pasture: Cattle

The survival of the third stage (L3) infective stages of roundworms on pastures determines the level of exposure cattle may receive. Temperature and moisture conditions have the greatest impact on worm survival on pasture (see Table 1).

Table 1. Climate factors contributing to paddock contamination with infective (L3) roundworm larvae

Life stagesTime or conditionsGeneral effect
Minimum time for worm eggs in the dung pat to develop to infective third stage larvae (L3).4–10 daysPaddocks can quickly become heavily contaminated during suitable moist conditions.
Temperature and moisture requirements for significant numbers of worm eggs to hatch and become infective larvae third stage larvae (L3).

The dung pat provides sufficient moisture for eggs to hatch to infective (L3) larvae without additional rainfall unless conditions are particularly dry. If a dry crust develops on the dung pat, some moisture may be necessary to break it up.
Small brown stomach worm
Temperature: daily maximum >8°C1
Moisture: >10–15 mm rainfall2

Barber’s pole worm
Temperature: daily maximum >18°C1
Moisture: up to 50 mm rainfall

Small intestinal worms
Temperature: daily maximum >18°C for C. punctata: >12°C for C. oncophora
Moisture: up to 50 mm rainfall

Nodule worm
Temperature: daily maximum >18°C1
Moisture: up to 50 mm rainfall

1Some hatching of worm eggs of all worm species can occur below these daily maximum levels, but this is usually at a small and insignificant rate.
2Small brown stomach worm eggs can develop at low rates in a relatively dry dung pat.
Unsuitable conditions prevent eggs hatching and developing into infective L3.

Note: The eggs of the small brown stomach worm are more tolerant of cold and dry conditions than other genera.

Eggs and larvae in dung pats during mid-winter and mid-summer may die due to extremes of conditions (temperature and/ or moisture).

Adverse weather conditions that prevent egg development reduces the worm-risk of paddocks.
L3 larvae can remain protected within the dung pat for several months (up to 5 months if deposited in spring and 7-8 months or longer if deposited in winter) due to its high moisture content and bulk.

When rainfall is continuous, migration of larvae out of the dung pat is continuous. When rainfall is alternated with periods of dryness, migration occurs in waves.

Once on pasture, L3 larvae are vulnerable to environmental conditions.
Survival of L3 larvae on pasture:

Cold Maximum temperature: < 15°C Time for 90% of L3 to die: 4 months
Warm Maximum temperature: about 22°C Time for 90% of L3 to die: 3 months
Hot Maximum temperature: about 35°C Time for 90% of L3 to die: 1.5 months
Very Hot Maximum temperature: > 40°C Time for 90% of L3 to die: 1–2 weeks
L3 larvae do not feed. Once they leave the dung pat their survival time is limited by their energy reserves.

While waiting to be ingested by grazing animals, L3 move randomly in drops of moisture. Increased activity in warm weather depletes their energy reserves, hastening death.

In extremely hot and dry conditions, larvae on pasture die more rapidly.
Minimum time for infective larvae ingested by cattle to mature and lay eggs (the ‘pre-patent period’).Small brown stomach worm: 21-24 days
Barber’s pole worm: 26-28 days
Small intestinal worms: 11-17 days
Nodule worm: 32-42 days
Pastures are not contaminated during the pre-patent period. If cattle are drenched with an effective drench, infective larvae can only establish after the protective period of the drench has finished.

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