OSCII Activity D.45

Bioactive products from plants and control of internal and external parasites in large ruminants

Activity summary

Many pest insects and parasites can reduce productivity in livestock production. House flies and stable flies are two major fly pests on dairy farms (both inside and outside buildings), because of their potential to spread disease and reduce cattle feeding efficiency, weight gain, milk production and milk fat content. The horn fly is considered to be the most economically-damaging pest of pastured cattle in North America. Organic livestock producers must pasture their animals and have restrictions on the use of synthetic pesticides, and thus have a very limited number of acceptable options for fly control.

Phytochemicals, such as plant essential oils, have been recognized as having important biological activity against pest insects and microorganisms. Many essential oils have been categorized as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Livestock producers sometimes apply plant essential oils to repel pest flies from their animals, using essential oils widely accessible for aromatherapeutic use. Formulated products using essential oil(s) as its active ingredient(s) for pest repellence can probably be commercialized at a reasonable price, and following registration could substantially improve fly control for organic producers.

Pastured animals are not only facing the attack of external parasites, but also are under pressure from gastrointestinal nematodes. Organic producers are concerned about the lack of efficient methods to control internal parasites, due to restrictions on synthetic use of pesticides. Beneficial botanical compounds, such as plants rich in tannins or essential oils, can act directly on decreasing parasite loads, through antiparasitic activity. However, most of the research has been performed with sheep and goats, and very little information is available for cattle producers.

Experiments will be performed to assess the efficacy of essential oil repellents as a function of doses and formulation used. The tests will be performed with standalone essential oils, blends and formulated products, for laboratory reared biting horn flies and non-biting house flies. Formulated products will also be tested in the field against the horn fly and the house fly. A simple, time-efficient delivery method for biopesticides will be adapted for solid or liquid formulations. Tannin-rich plants (sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, big trefoil, chicory) and aromatic plants (thyme, oregano, eucalyptus, others) will be tested in the laboratory and in the field for their anthelminthic properties on cattle. Behavioral studies will be performed to evaluate whether cow and heifer behaviors may be affected by application of repellent products, or may be modified if tanniferous plants are mixed in the ration.

The methods developed and tested will also be assessed on whether they are economically viable and practical for a livestock producer. The lack of efficient solutions for the prevention and control of internal and external parasites for organic dairy producers is impairing not only productivity, but also the health and well-being of pastured animals.

The study's aim is to develop strategies, methods and products to control external and internal parasites in livestock production, and can subsequently lead to improvements in tools available for organic and conventional producers, and improvements in cow well-being, mostly while on pasture.  The results of the research may ultimately be used to submit an application (or more) to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) of Health Canada, to register one or more biopesticides for use in pest fly or internal parasite control.

Materials and Results to Date

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Simon Lachance, Activity Leader University of Guelph, Campus d'Alfred
Renée Bergeron University of Guelph, Campus d'Alfred
Marie-Gabrielle Lamoureux Héloïse Laboratoire Inc.
Elsa Vasseur University of Guelph, Campus d'Alfred
Alain Villeneuve Université de Montréal


Activity graduate students

Kristen Wight