Mapping the Distribution of Horse Parasites in Pastures in New Jersey

Project Coordinator: Mike Sukhdeo
Associate Professor, Dept. of Animal Science
Ph: (848) 932-9406
E-mail: ( )

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PROJECT GOALS

The equine industry in New Jersey contributes more than $600 million to the state's economy every year.  In the state and in the nation, parasite control is an important health care measure for horses.  Horse owners in the U.S. spend more than $178 million annually.  Even on horse farms with good parasite control programs, the prevalence of Strongylus vulgaris in the horse remains around 27%.  Several anthelminthics of varying efficacy are available, but continual use may lead to resistance.  In addition, there are environmental concerns about the effects of excreted drugs such as the avermectins, which are toxic to beneficial organisms involved in fecal degradation and nutrient recycling.  Alternate methods of parasite control are being sought, and many of these are aimed at controlling the pasture stages before they are ingested by the horse.  The goal of this study is to develop a predictive model of parasite transmission on modern horse farms to increase the efficacy of pasture treatments.

Data from previous studies on horse pastures suggest that parasites aggregate in "hot" spots.  They appear to aggregate in low lying areas of fields and those areas that are most heavily grazed by the horses.  The hypothesis for this project is based on the idea that rainfall action on a pasture brings small particulate nutrients to the low-lying areas, and it is here that you get the growth of fresh succulent grasses that are preferred by the horses.    The worms are flowing along with the nutrients.

To test this hypothesis, GPS, and GIS are being used to map the topography of four experimental pastures located at Cook College in New Brunswick, NJ.  Flow models of terrain were constructed using ArcInfo, a GIS package.  In situ data were collected at various locations throughout the fields, and the number of worms found in each spot were counted.  The project is on-going and the data will be analyzed this winter.

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