Integrated Pest Management (IPM), refers to a pest management approach which combines cultural, biological, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimises economic, health and environmental risks.
Most commonly applying to crop pests, IPM can be visualised as a pyramid (see image right), with cultural practices such as crop rotations, resistant varieties and beneficial insect populations forming the foundations. However, IPM can also be applied to livestock businesses, both in the context of controlling crop pests on forage crops, but also for directly managing livestock pests and diseases. Below are some examples of pest and disease management techniques which can form part of an integrated approach.
Preventing parasitic infections in livestock are key for maintaining herd health and yield, and farmers spent on average £80 million annually on synthetic wormers. However their widespread use has lead to a build up in anthelmintic drug resistance, resulting in an increasing risk of parasites becoming immune to medication.
An alternative to widespread drug use is incorporating naturally anthelmintic plants into grazing areas, which contain high amounts of tannins which disrupt parasite biology. Chicory, sainfoin and birdsfoot trefoil have all been shown to help naturally reduce worm burdens, and can be incorporated into herbal leys to both increase diversity and help reduce worming costs. Monitoring through faecal egg counts is key to this approach as ensures that stock are only treated when necessary.
Reducing the use of synthetic anthelmintics can also have huge benefits for dung beetle populations, which have been shown to help reduce livestock gastrointestinal parasite availability on pasture.
Dung beetles provide a range of services to livestock farmers, including dung disposal (which improves pasture availability), soil fertilization (through burying nutrients), reduced dung breeding fly populations and improvement of ground drainage.
Dung beetle populations can be increased through a range of methods, including minimising worm product use, keeping native livestock breeds with more solid dung, implementing field margins and having permanent pasture. More information on their benefits can be found here.
Image right is an Aphodiinae dung beetle, one of the UK’s most common dung beetles. From: UK Beetles.
Reducing the use of antibiotics in dairy farming
Mastitis is one of the leading causes of antibiotic usage in dairy farming, so any approach to reduce antibiotic usage is a win win for both your pocket and the environment. An Innovative Farmers trial which took place in Cornwall suggests that testing whether mastitis cases are caused by gram-positive or gram-negative bacteria can lead to reductions in antibiotics usage. Gram-negative cases generally clear up by themselves and are not affected by antibiotic use, whereas gram-positive infections can be cured using antibiotics. By using on-farm culturing to identify the type of bacteria, selective treatment can be given to gram-positive infected cows which will positively react to treatment, therefore reducing the need to treat all stock. More information can be found here.
Selective dry cow therapy is another method for reducing antibiotic usage, by helping to eliminate current udder infections and preventing new ones. Antibiotic dry cow therapy (ADCT) works by selecting cows to receive ADCT treatment based on an assessment of infection before drying off, usually through somatic cell counts. The below flow chart summarises the process and more information can be found here. Many milk buyers and assurance schemes now require ADCT so implementing the system can improve market opportunities as well as reducing antibiotic use.
Flow chart below on selective dry cow therapy is from Farming Connect.