USU scientist aims to create 'pasture pharmacy'

A Utah State University scientist hopes his research can help farm animals live healthier lives.
Professor Juan Villalba's project is aimed at finding a way for livestock to basically treat themselves for parasites by putting medicinal plants in fields that they can feed on when sick.
He tells KSL-TV ( ) the research is showing promise and has caught the eye of the agriculture industry.
Villalba said he has been studying sheep and goat behavior for several years in an effort to reduce diseases that affect the animals.
"Parasites are one of the big problems, health problems of livestock animals," Villalba said.
They can kill livestock and also cause other health effects and taint the taste of the meat.
Conventional farming methods of treating diseases with antibiotics and other chemicals have created parasites and other bugs that are becoming drug-resistant, Villalba said.
He has been conducting research in a lab and on a 9-acre pasture at the university, testing plants that have medicinal properties capable of killing parasites when the animals feed on them.
Villalba has planted test patches in the field, mixing alfalfa with the medicinal plants.
He said his research has shown that infected animals migrate to the area of the field where the medicinal plants are growing and feed off them.
"So, by the animals selecting these compounds by themselves, then that reduces the problem of resistance, because only the animals who are sick are going to seek the particular plant products," Villalba said, noting that when the animals feel better, they begin to migrate back to their normal diet in the field.
Villalba hopes his research will one day lead to a "pasture pharmacy" for farm animals across the country, reducing the need for traditional medicines and chemicals.
Information from: KSL-TV,


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