Sheep and goat enterprises offer diversification opportunities for small and limited-resource farmers. Control of internal parasites is a primary concern for many sheep and goat producers and is particularly challenging in humid areas. Resistance of intestinal parasites to commercial anthelmintics (drugs that are used to treat parasitic infections), and the inability to use commercial anthelmintics for certified organic food production present challenges.
A recent graduate student of The Ohio State University, Dr. Shirron LeShure, PhD, has been working with small ruminants since she was an undergraduate student at Tuskegee University in 2003. She wanted to research areas that would address producers’ rising concerns about intestinal parasite resistance to current commercial anthelmintics, and build on preliminary research she conducted at Tuskegee University, which showed indications of efficacy of pomegranate husk extracts against helminth/worm parasites.
“Emphasis is being placed on decreasing the use of synthetic drugs in food animal production, and there are a limited number of drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for some of the minor species like goats and sheep,” said LeShure. “Yet, intestinal parasites are among the primary health risks to the growth and survival of small ruminants.”
LeShure received a $9,900 NCR-SARE Graduate Student grant to examine the naturally occurring anthelmintic properties of certain fruit by-product extracts against intestinal parasites in small ruminants.
LeShure extracted potentially anti-parasitic bioactive compounds (e.g. tannins and polyphenols) from by-products of the pomegranate and grape industries, and then investigated the effects of pomegranate husk and grape pomace on the life stages of the helminth worm parasite in cooperation with five farmers, two organic and three conventional. LeShure was especially enthusiastic about the idea of using byproducts for treatments.
According to LeShure’s data, grape pomace and pomegranate husk showed efficacy against larval helminth stages. Additionally, grape pomace showed efficacy against egg hatchability and larval development, and pomegranate husk was able to decrease adult activity. Given that, LeShure says it may be possible to decrease transmission of infestation.
Looking ahead, Leshure thinks that grape pomace and pomegranate husk could both potentially have practical application in becoming a natural anthelmintic for small ruminants and aiding in integrated pest management. LeShure says more in-depth studies need to be conducted to verify and finalize application parameters, but she is extremely optimistic about the results and the implications for sustainability.
“This research gives an opportunity to provide a value-added component to the fruit industry and to improve the health, growth, and efficiency of production of small ruminants,” said LeShure. “The discoveries made from this research provide an opportunity for internal parasite control of animals in organic production practices. These aspects will aid in providing for a more efficient and affordable food system and improving economic viability of food production systems that can lead to economic benefits for both the plant and animal industries, while reducing dependency on chemical anthelmintics to assist in improving animal health and productivity.”
View Shirron's presentation on this project, from the 2014 Farmers Forum, through NCR-SARE's YouTube playlist. Visit www.youtube.com/NCRSAREvideo for this and other videos.
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