parasite loaded pasture

Asked June 17, 2016, 1:54 PM EDT

Would using agriculture lime on a pasture reduce the parasite load? Owners of a large alpaca herd have taken back control of a pasture rented by people who kept alpacas known to be in very poor condition.

Skagit County Washington

1 Response

Hi -- lime could probably kill any larvae it contacted directly, but don't count on it to kill all internal parasite larvae on a contaminated pasture. It is highly caustic and should help reduce parasite loads to some extent, though. What would help more is time. Larvae on pasture can't live forever without being ingested and getting into the host to complete their life cycle. Their numbers are down after six weeks without livestock on the pasture, very reduced after six months, and you can consider a contaminated pasture "clean" after two years without livestock.

You can also eliminate all parasites by plowing and reseeding pasture or making a pasture out of a former crop field. If need be, you can keep animals safe by dry lotting them off pasture (confining them on dirt, gravel or concrete) and feeding hay until enough time has passed for larvae numbers to go down and grass to regrow. Hot, dry weather will reduce the amount of time parasites can survive on pasture; wet weather helps them survive longer.

Because most parasite larvae reside in the lower three inches of pasture, don't let animals graze a pasture until grass is six to eight inches high and never graze below three inches. Divide pasture into individual paddocks and rotate them out of a paddock after four or five days so they can leave eggs and pre-infectious larvae behind to die. Providing excellent nutrition (even overfeeding protein by 20 percent) will help animals withstand the parasite loads they do contract despite excellent management. Best wishes with your alpacas,