A question sometimes asked by backyard poultry enthusiasts is “Can turkeys and chickens be raised in the same area?” A simple answer is that many backyard poultry producers do; however, many poultry experts would caution poultry producers about comingling these two species. The reason for this is a small protozoan parasite called Histomonas meleagridis.
H. meleagridis is a flagellated ameboid protozoan. The survival of this protozoan is dependent on Heterakis gallinarum, commonly referred to as the cecal worm of poultry. The cecal worms eat the protozoans. Once inside the cecal worm, the female cecal worm incorporates the protozoan in her eggs. The contaminated cecal worm eggs are shed in the bird’s droppings. At this time, H. meleagridis can be transmitted to domestic birds by ingestion of the contaminated cecal worm eggs or intermediated host (earthworms) that has ingested the contaminated eggs. Also, the protozoan can be transmitted directly from one bird to another bird. Unless protected in the cecal worm eggs or earthworms, H. meleagridis only survives a short period of time in the environment.
Several different species of birds (turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, game birds, zoo birds) have been infected with H. meleagridis. Turkeys are considered the most susceptible with high morbidity and mortality rates. Young turkeys seem more susceptible than older turkeys. Blackhead can be rapid with birds appearing healthy in the morning and sick and/or dead by the afternoon. This makes control difficult. Chickens are easily infected but unlike turkeys, they have a milder form of the disease. Although not as deadly as in turkeys, production losses can be substantial with chickens. The difference between the severity of disease between turkeys and chickens may be explained by the turkey’s poor immune response compared to chickens. Lastly, some studies indicate that the development of disease is dependent on the presence of bacteria (Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli) or other microorganisms such as coccidia (Eimeria tenella).
Once a bird is infected with H. meleagridis, the protozoan penetrates the intestinal cecal wall of the bird. They will multiply and enter the bloodstream. Eventually, the protozoans infect the liver. The protozoans can be found in other tissues as well. Clinical signs will develop in one to two weeks.
Infected turkeys will display clinical signs such as yellow stained feces, anorexia, drooping wings, drowsiness, and problems walking. Eventually, turkeys will become emaciated. Studies have found sickness rates greater than 80% and death rates up to 100% in turkeys. As mentioned earlier, chickens tend to have milder forms of the disease; however, mortality rates around 30% have occurred.
Diagnosis of blackhead disease should be based on laboratory testing; however, poultry producers can make a presumptive diagnosis based on clinical signs, morbidity/mortality rates, and viewing the internal tissues. The primary internal lesions seen are in the ceca and liver. The cecal lesions are thick cecal walls with a cheesy like core and inflamed surfaces with an occasional ulcerated area. The liver will have circular dead depressed areas surrounded by red raised areas (bulls-eye-like lesions).
All previous approved drugs used to treat/prevent/control blackhead disease have been banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Several different prevention and control practices have been suggested with few being thoroughly researched. One key is to start with healthy chicks and turkey poults. Studies have shown that beginning with high quality young reduces issues with blackhead disease. Some recommended practices by poultry experts are confirming the diagnosis of blackhead disease, maintain a proper environmental (wet moist conditions favor the development of the protozoan), control coccidiosis, control internal parasites (cecal worm) through deworming, do not comingle chickens and turkeys, and follow biosecurity protocols. Development of resistant genetic lines of birds has the potential to reduce the incidence of the disease. Several different natural treatments/preventions (essential oils, oregano, garlic, rosemary, etc.) have shown promise in laboratory conditions, but have not been researched in the field situations.
Fortunately, blackhead disease has not been found to be a major cause of death in backyard poultry operations; however, backyard poultry enthusiast should be careful when commingling turkeys and chickens. If a producer would like more information about blackhead disease, they should contact their local veterinarian and/or their local Oklahoma State University Cooperative County Extension Agriculture Educator.
Cadmus, K. J., Mete, A., Harris, M., Anderson, D., Davison, S., Sato, Y., Helm, J., Boger, L., Odani, J., Ficken, M. D., & Pabilonia, K. L. (2019). Causes of mortality in backyard poultry in eight states in the United States. Journal of veterinary diagnostic investigation : official publication of the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, Inc, 31(3), 318–326.
Clark, S., & Kimminau, E. (2017). Critical Review: Future Control of Blackhead Disease (Histomoniasis) in Poultry. Avian diseases, 61(3), 281–288.
Swayne, D.E. and Halvorson, D.A. 2003 Influenza. In Y. M. Saif (ed.). Diseases of Poultry, 11th ed. Iowa State Press: Ames, Iowa, 135-160.
There is a Future in Equine and Large Animal Vet Medicine.
By Ddee Haynes
In the world there are two kinds of people.
Those who see a need and simply talk about it, and those who see a need and take action.
Since around 2003, there has been a shortage of Veterinarians, particularly large-animal Veterinarians in rural areas. A combination of lower wages, longer and irregular hours, (as compared to a companion pet Veterinarian) and not wanting to live outside of a major city are just a few of the reasons for the shortage. Without large animal vets, the lively hoods of farmers and ranchers is affected, and most importantly the nation’s food supply are more vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
In 2017, Butch Wise, manager of the Lazy E Ranch, Guthrie, OK, was having a hard time finding qualified equine veterinarians. Butch was not alone in the quest to find qualified equine vets. In 2017, a group of local veterinarians and industry representatives held a meeting to discuss the problem as well as possible solutions. The meeting of the five individuals produced an idea that would soon become a reality. In 2018, the non-profit organization V.E.T., Veterinarians Encouraging and Teaching became a reality.
V.E.T is a non-profit organization focused on enhancing relationships between veterinary students, private practice, and academia through social events, clinical skills labs, and mentorship avenues. The board of directors includes, Dr. Sam Crosby, Crosby Equine Services, Arcadia, OK, Dr. Trent Stiles, McKey Equine Hospital, Sallisaw, OK, Laurel Klotz, a Registered Vet Technician, as well as a Territory Manager for Midwest Veterinary Supply, Oklahoma City, OK, Dr. Brian Carroll and Dr. Amanda Wilson of Oklahoma City Equine Clinic, Oklahoma City, OK, Dr. Carly Turner-Garcia, the head veterinarian a the Lazy E Ranch, Guthrie, OK and Amber Pierce, Territory Manager for Merck Animal Health, Purcell, OK. Dr. Crosby, Dr. Stiles and Laurel are three of the original founding board members.
The goals of V.E.T. is to provide students with hands on skills, networking opportunities with local and out-of-state veterinarians for externship and internship opportunities for future employment. Symposiums which focus on the business side of veterinarian medicine and wetlabs (actual hands-on experience) have shown to be a successful way to reach those goals.
V.E.T. also partners with other like-minded non-profit organizations such as TEVA, (Texas Equine Veterinarian Association) and AAEP, (American Association of Equine Practitioners) to provide assistance with student programs, clinical skills labs and networking. This year V.E.T. will host the student clinical skills lab at the TEVA summer symposium.
V.E.T. and it’s industry partners, hold one symposium per year and at least one-two hands-on-skill training (wetlabs) per month. Both of which are open to all vet students, regardless of their year in vet college. To attend, the students only need to apply and both the symposiums and wetlabs are completely free. Depending on the subject and space, wetlabs are usually limited to 25-40 students.
The symposiums generally have two keynote speakers in the morning, followed by lunch and the trade show. The trade show provides students the opportunity to visit with animal health companies and other vet related clubs and organizations.
Last year’s symposiums featured two well-known and respected industry Veterinarians. Dr. Ben Buchanan who spoke on Equine Veterinary Medicine – How to take ownership of your future, and Dr. Meredyth Jones whose topic was Building legitimacy in large animal practices.
In order to have the wetlabs, the board must find locations that are suitable, they work with the animal health companies for the supplies needed, find animal owners willing to donate their animals for procedures, and donations to provide lunch for students and staff.
Currently, the majority of the wetlabs have been in Oklahoma and Texas. However, the goal is to expand into Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Louisiana.
Veterinarians are essential. A Veterinarian is the only doctor educated to protect the health of both animals and people. Veterinarians also play critical roles in environmental protection, research, food safety, and public health. V.E.T. recognizes the worth of our current and future vets, but they also realize there are obstacles that must be overcome.
In addition to pay and working conditions, another obstacle is generational differences. Each generation communicates differently which can cause conflict. All of these obstacles can be overcome with work, education, and guidance of leaders such as the board of V.E.T. which in turn will prove “There is a future in Equine and large animal Vet medicine!”
For more information on V.E.T check out the websites.
or e-mail [email protected]
Cattle Nematodes (Worms)
Barry Whitworth, DVM
Senior Extension Specialist
Department of Animal & Food Sciences
According to the Mesonet, Oklahoma received some much-needed rain in late April. With the moderate temperatures and high humidity, the environment is perfect for the proliferation of gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN) which are commonly called “worms.” Cattle can be infected with a variety of GIN. Most do not cause issues unless husbandry practices are poor. However certain GIN have been associated with disease. The most pathological GIN in cattle is Ostertagia ostertagi. Cooperia species and Haemonchus species are two that have been implicated with production issues. Control of these parasites is constantly changing due to environment, anthelmintic (dewormer) resistance, and consumer preference. Cattle producers should develop a plan to manage these parasites.
In order for GIN to complete their life cycle, certain environmental conditions must exist. The development stage begins with passing of the egg in the feces of the animal. If the egg is to hatch, the temperature must be warm and the humidity needs to be close to 100%. Ideal temperature ranges from 70⁰ to 80⁰ Fahrenheit (F), but any temperature above 45⁰ F will allow for development. Temperatures above 85⁰ F or below 45⁰ F will begin to hamper development. Humidity needs to be 80% or higher.
Once the egg hatches, the larva goes through a couple of molts to reach the infective stage which is the third stage larva (L3). L3 must have moisture to free itself from the fecal pat. Once free, it rides a wave of water on to a blade of forage. Once ingested, this begins the prepatent or pre-adult stage. Two molts take place during this stage (L3 to L4 and L4 to L5). If conditions are not favorable for survivability of offspring, L4 will go into an arrested development stage (hypobiosis) for a period of time. The patent or adult stage is the mature breeding adult.
Once inside the body, the parasite will migrate to certain locations in the digestive tract. For example, O. ostertagi develop in the gastric gland in the abomasum. H. placei and H. contortus will migrate to the abomasum. Cooperia species will live in the small intestine. A few like Trichuris (whipworms) are found in the large intestine.
Clinical signs of parasitism vary according to the species of parasite, burden, and site of attachment. Severe disease, which is referred to as parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE), with internal parasites is unusual with today’s control methods. Clinical signs of PGE are lack of appetite, weight loss, weakness, diarrhea, submandibular edema (bottle jaw), and death. However, most parasite infection are subclinical which means producers do not see clinical signs of disease. In subclinical infections, the parasite causes production issues such as poor weight gain in young cattle, reduced milk production, and lower pregnancy rates.
Producers should be monitoring their herds for parasites throughout the year but especially in the spring when conditions are ideal for infection. A fecal egg count (FEC) is a good way of accessing parasite burdens. Livestock producers need to gather fecal samples from their herd periodically. The samples should be sent to their veterinarian or a veterinary diagnostic lab. Different techniques are used to access the number of eggs per gram of feces. Based on the counts, the producer will learn the parasite burden of the herd. Producers can use this information to develop a treatment plan.
In the past, GIN control was simple. Cattle were routinely dewormed. Unfortunately, anthelmintic resistance has complicated parasite control. Now proper nutrition, grazing management, a general understanding of how weather influences parasites, biosecurity, refugia, anthelmintic efficiency, and the judicious use of anthelmintics are important in designing an effective parasite management program. All of these considerations need to be discussed in detail with a producer’s veterinarian when developing a plan for their operation.
Cattle producers need to understand that parasites cannot be eliminated. They must be managed with a variety of control methods. Designing a parasite management plan requires producers to gain a general understanding of life cycle of the parasite as well as the environmental needs of the parasite. Producers should use this information as well as consult with their veterinarian for a plan to manage GIN. For more information about GIN, producers should talk with their veterinarian and/or with their local Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Agriculture Educator.
Charlier, J., Höglund, J., Morgan, E. R., Geldhof, P., Vercruysse, J., & Claerebout, E. (2020). Biology and Epidemiology of Gastrointestinal Nematodes in Cattle. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Food animal practice, 36(1), 1–15.
Navarre C. B. (2020). Epidemiology and Control of Gastrointestinal Nematodes of Cattle in Southern Climates. The Veterinary clinics of North America. Food animal practice, 36(1), 45–57.
Urquhart, G. M., Armour, J., Duncan, J. L., Dunn, A. M., & Jennings, F. W. (1987). In G. M. Urquhart (Ed). Veterinary Helminthology. Veterinary Parasitology (1st ed., pp 3-33). Longman Scientific & Technical.
Read more in the June 2023 issue of Oklahoma Farm & Ranch.
Oklahoma Conservation Districts: Vigorously Promoting Water Quality and Soil Health at 85 years old
By Bryan Painter
What was the door opener?
What was the need or idea that led you through the door of your local Conservation District office for the first time?
There is a better than average chance several producers pushed that door open for the first time in 2022 to apply for Emergency Drought Cost-Share Funding. The Oklahoma Conservation Commission and the Districts are glad you did and hope to see you again soon under better circumstances than a weather disaster.
However, the odds are even greater that you or a neighbor had a good working relationship with your district before the bottom of your ponds took on the look of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. Afterall, Conservation Districts are not exactly newcomers to your Oklahoma community – in fact, 2023 is a historic year.
It has been 85 years since the McIntosh Soil Conservation District was the first district to be organized in January 1938. That same year, the Arkansas-Verdigris SCD, now the Tulsa County Conservation District, and the Garvin Murray SCD, now the Garvin Conservation District, made history as the first districts to begin program operations in November 1938.
If you have not been through the door of your local Conservation District or visited with them on the phone or at an event, we would like to share with you why now is the time to do so.
Oklahoma’s 84 state-appropriated Conservation Districts tirelessly strive to provide and administer programs to help people conserve, improve and sustain natural resources and the environment. This may be through consultations, renting equipment, Field Days, operation and maintenance of the nation-leading 2,107 upstream flood control dams or a host of other services. We thought we would narrow the focus and offer a snapshot of what you might find at your local district.
These examples come from efforts of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation District’s five Outstanding Area Conservation Districts in 2022. The overall Outstanding Conservation District will be recognized this month at the OACD State Meeting, scheduled for February 26-28, 2023, at the Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City.
Area I: Alfalfa County Conservation District
Who is your prescribed burn buddy? This Conservation District, based at Cherokee in northwest Oklahoma, fits the description of a prescribed burn buddy for the Alfalfa County Prescribed Burn Association. The district serves as the burn association’s headquarters and is a strong advocate for this practice.
“The Alfalfa County Conservation District is a huge supporter of this much needed service to our community. Annual dues are 25 dollars. If you plan to burn, this is the best decision you could ever make,” the District’s Annual Report stated. “There is a burn trailer available with the necessary equipment, along with the technical assistance needed to complete a successful and safe burn.”
Those wanting to rent the trailer must have a burn plan in place and be a member. Burn plans are kept on file in the office, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service can assist with burn plans. Prescribed burning is a key land management practice used to restore and maintain native plant communities to their former diversity and productivity for livestock production and wildlife habitat, along with reducing fuels and damage from wildfires.
Area II, Payne County Conservation District
Based in Stillwater, The Payne County Conservation District in 2022 proudly opened their Education Pavilion. The District, with the help of a grant from Friends of Blue Thumb and a grant from Xerces, was able to plant 130 pollinator plants and will be planting more seeds this fall. Jake Linneman prepped the bed, Ray Moranz, Jim Ellis and Anita Kaufman planted all of the plants and kept them watered.
“We are excited about adding this element to our outdoor classroom and look forward excitedly for all the plants to mature and feed pollinators for years to come,” Kaufman said. “We will also use this as a teaching area to show others what plants they can plant to get the best results.”
Area III, Wagoner County Conservation District
This northeastern Conservation District, based in Wagoner, has been a major supporter of the Conservation and Agricultural Reach Everyone Project, a collaborative effort being led by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts with the Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, and partners agencies/organizations in Texas. The CARE project places an emphasis on assisting socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers/ranchers, while working with this targeted group to expand their knowledge of innovative technology, soil health, and invasive species eradication that will assist them in sustaining their farms.
“We can’t stay in the past,” CARE Champion, Major T.J. Love said, in an OACD video. “I’m not saying we need to forget about the past by no means, we’re not acting like the past didn’t happen, but right now we’ve got to move forward. That’s what I want to do as a CARE Champion in Wagoner County. I want to help bridge that gap between minorities and what happened in the past … There are great opportunities out there. There are great programs out there to help any farmer be successful, but we just have to take that initial step and that step may be walking in and letting go of the past and having that mindset of well they won’t help me anyway. The initial step is letting that go. I want to empower, I want to motivate and I want to encourage.”
Area IV, North Fork of Red River Conservation District
As mentioned, Oklahoma leads the nation in upstream flood control dams, which protects lives, infrastructure and property. The North Fork of Red River Conservation District is responsible for the operation and maintenance of 42 watershed structures, of which eight are high hazard in Beckham County. The District Technician works to keep the dams operational and clear of growth and debris and performs yearly inspections. The rehabilitation of Upper Elk Creek 23D watershed started in June 2021, and the final inspection was performed April 20, 2022. District personnel visited the site several times during the rehab to check on progress and to work with the landowner. In September, a re-dedication involved the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Association of Conservation Districts and others, with attendees including Congressman Frank Lucas and NRCS Chief Terry Cosby.
Area V, Johnston County Conservation District
The Johnston County Conservation District, based in Tishomingo in southeastern Oklahoma, purchased a hog trap with local funds to assist landowners in reducing the feral swine population. They have one trap and it is rented out continuously. The trap is available for a period of one month to landowners. It is a JAGER PRO system which operates from an app installed on the landowners’ cell phone. Because the board felt like it was a valuable tool to help landowners control the feral hog population in the area, they have graciously donated their time to deliver and install the trap. Feral hogs are a major problem for the agricultural community, as well as some urban communities, causing millions in damage to land and crops each year. Feral hogs pose disease risks to livestock, pets and humans.
Again, these efforts from the Oklahoma Association of Conservation District’s five Outstanding Area Conservation Districts in 2022 are a small sample of the great conservation work being led by local Conservation Districts throughout Oklahoma. Producers can contact their local Conservation District for more information. To find your local Conservation District, please go to https://conservation.ok.gov/conservation-district-directory/.
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