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Fighting worm infections with a herb mixture

A non-pharmaceutical approach to worm control is especially valued by organic pig producers. Plant extracts have potential to help reduce worm infections, according to a new study from the Animal Sciences Group in the Netherlands.

The percentage of disapproved livers of growing and finishing pigs has
been increased significantly during the last years. In  organic pig farms, this  percentage is often higher than in  conventional farms. In most cases, disapproved livers are  the result of an infection with Ascaris suum. Usually, an  infection like this is treated or controlled by using  conventional synthetic drugs belonging to the benzimidazoles, levamisole and macrocyclic lactones. Organic farmers, however, prefer a non-pharmaceutical approach to treat worms, in which phytotherapy could be a perspective alternative.
 
Herb mixtures
An experiment was conducted to test herb alternatives for the prevention and control of a mild infection of Ascaris suum in growing and finishing pigs. Two different herb mixtures were tested. Feed was supplemented with 3% of a herb mixture, thereby adding 1% Thymus vulgaris, 1% Melissa officinalis and 1% Echinacea purpurea to the diet, or with 4% of a herb mixture, thereby adding the mentioned herbs plus 1% Camellia sinensis (black tea) to the diet. Pigs were infected by 1,000 worm eggs each. Comparatively, a negative control group (no treatment) and a positive control group (treatment with conventional synthetic drug Flubendazole) were included. The study was conducted with 32 young boars (average starter weight was 24 kg) purchased from a SPF-pig farm. The pigs were monitored during 67 days in the period December 2006 until February 2007. In this study, four experimental treatments were compared:
 
Echinacea purpurea was one of the extracts used in the herb mixture
 
1. Negative control: no treatment was applied to prevent or control an infection with Ascaris suum;
2. Positive control: pigs were treated with a conventional anthelmintic (Flubendazole) one week before slaughter;
3. 3% herb mixture: pigs were fed a diet supplemented with a herb mixture;
4. 3% herb mixture + 1% tea: pigs were fed a diet supplemented with a herb mixture (as treatment 3) plus black tea.
 
Results
From this experiment it was concluded that a diet with a herb mixture containing 1% Thymus vulgaris, 1% Melissa officinalis and 1% Echinacea purpurea for growing and finishing pigs did not decrease the number of pigs which are infected with Ascaris suum, but did reduce the average number of worms in the gastro intestinal tract. The addition of 1% black tea to this herb mixture did not result in a lower number of infected pigs and also did not reduce the average number of worms in pigs. Flubendazole appeared to be an effective deworming product. On organic farms with a low worm infection probably a combination of a conventional synthetic drug and a diet with herb mixture containing 1% Thymus vulgaris, 1% Melissa officinalis and 1% Echinacea purpurea is an option. It depends on the level of worm infection whether it is an opportunity to deworm sows, weaners and/or growing finishing pigs with a diet containing the herb mixture to keep the level of Ascaris suum at an acceptable low level. Based on this monitoring probably a strategy of varying deworming with a synthetic drug and a diet with herb mixture can be developed for the different categories of pigs.
 
Follow up
Further research to supply the herb mixture (described in this article) to sows related to stage of pregnancy and weaners related to age and feed intake, is desirable. Because the current study did not show tremendous effects of the herb mixture on the reduction of worm infections, a new project to investigate the individual effects of other herbs will be carried out. Results of this follow-up trial are expected in May 2008.
 
For more information: Marinus.vankrimpen@wur.nl
 
Source:Feed Mix Vol 15 No 6
 
 

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