Featured photo caption: Sheep grazing at the Cornell Cooperative Extension St. Lawrence County Extension Learning Farm, Canton, NY. Photo: Betsy Hodge

As part of a Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project, sheep and goats in Canton, Cape Vincent, and AuSable Forks are now grazing pastures planted a year ago with specific species of birdsfoot trefoil, a legume that may have an antiworm effect on the livestock.

With 2015 funding from the farmer driven NNYADP, project leaders Dr. Michael L. Thonney and Dr. tatiana Stanton of the Cornell University Sheep and Goat programs are looking to adapt the success that small livestock growers in the Southeastern U.S. have had grazing animals on forages with high tannin concentration.

“The Northern New York Agricultural Development Program is addressing a critical farmer identified need with the opportunity to evaluate pasture species that may serve as biocontrol options for controlling internal parasites in sheep and goat flocks,” Stanton said.

Small livestock grazing in the South have shown improved resistance to barber pole worm, or stomach worm, a major cause of death in pastured sheep and goats. The Northern New York region however, says Thonney, an Animal Science Professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, will require a slightly different approach.

‘The condensed-tannin forages that help protect livestock in the Southeast are not hardy under the winter conditions of the Northeast, so this Northern New York Agricultural Development Program project is evaluating species of birdsfoot trefoil that commonly grow in the Northeast and have shown some anthelmintic, antiworm, effectiveness in small ruminant livestock,’ says Thonney.

This research began in the spring of 2014 with the planting of three acres of a birdsfoot trefoil species known as Pardee at the St. Lawrence County Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm in Canton, NY. Asgaard Goat Farm and Dairy, an organic enterprise in AuSable Forks, NY, planted a trial of three acres of the birdsfoot trefoil species Bruce in the fall of 2014.

Each farm followed Cornell soil sampling, planting, and fertilizer guidelines. NNY Field Crops and Soils Specialist Kitty O’Neil with Cornell Cooperative Extension supervised the planting of the pasture trials and is evaluating how well the trefoil crops establish and grow at each site.

“This research is especially important to the growth of the small ruminant industry in Northern New York as farmers take advantage of the abundance of grazing land across the region,” said Cornell Cooperative Extension NNY Livestock Specialist Betsy Hodge, who manages the sheep flock at the St. Lawrence County Cornell Cooperative Extension Learning Farm.

“Many Northern New York sheep and goat farmers are reporting worm resistance to multiple types of deworming products,” Hodge added.