While rummaging through Fresh Patents this weekend, I found patent request that caught my eye. A group of researchers are patenting a feeding mechanism they have discovered: the plant Lespedeza cuneata (also referred to as sericea lespedeza, Chinese bush clover, silky bush clover, and Himalayan bush clover) can control the presence of harmful, sometimes deadly, gastrointestinal nematodes in ruminants when included in the diet of these ruminants. More specifically, the plant has a detrimental effect on the fecundity of these worms.
In the southern USA, there is a high demand for goat meat and milk, however, the growth of the industry has been rather lagging and unable to keep up with the demand. This lagging is due to gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN), more specifically, Haemonchus contortus. This nematode will feed on blood in the stomach, therefore giving off a a red coloration. The adult worms have a lancet in their mouths, in which they utilize to open blood vessels for feeding purposes.
H. contortus females are extremely fertile and can lay up to 5,000 eggs a day. The eggs will pass through the feces, larvae will molt on the grass, and the ruminants will digest these nematodes who will then start attacking their intestinal tracts. The effects include anemia, weakness, and in a great deal of cases: death.
Chinese bush clover is known for its high concentration of tannins (protein). However, cattle and other ruminants are less likely to forage on this plant due to that fact. The high tannins produce a taste that the grazers do no particularly care for. Common dewormers and anthelminics are used in attempt to reduce the effects of the GINs, but the worms have readily developed resistance against the drugs.
The Chinese bush clover can be introduced into the diet of the animals in several ways: hay, pellets, directly with feed, and as an additive among many others. Through extensive research and feeding trials (shown in the patent request) the researchers have discovered that the plants does not kill the worms, but instead greatly reduces their fecundity, which will in turn reduce the number of worms consumed via grazing.
Take a look at the patent request on Fresh Patents for a more detailed description of what these researchers are trying to do. In my opinion, this method of GIN control is extremely advantageous. The method is simple to do, cost-effective, and most importantly: all natural. Considering that these ruminants are to be used in the food industry, as consumers we want the least amount of synthetic drugs in them as possible. And these researchers have come up with a solution.