Bison Parasitology

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Bison Parasitology

Bison Parasitology:

‘Stakeholder Citizen Science & Observations Initiative’  

Prepared by: Frasier Bison LLC

Bison production in Texas & the Southern Plains involves many factors as we charge ourselves with ‘Preserving the Legend’ and caretaking the National Mammal. One of the biggest factors affecting herd health and productivity is internal parasites. Like the many other factors, bison-science is limited to applying cattle science (with a twist) because; as a relatively small segment of southern agriculture we simply do not have the interest group resources available for extensive research.

Our message to other bison ranchers and stewards is to know your enemy by doing your own Parasitologyfor your own herd as a herd health management tool. All bison herds who wish to contribute to our accumulated observations are welcome to do so. We also guarantee the highest level of owner premise ID confidentiality.

When you help ‘Your Herd’ with a deeper and ongoing look into internal parasite type and infection levels, you generate information to help ‘The Herd’ with the contribution of observations validated by scientific method. Frasier Bison LLC is committed to sharing (only) seasonal, regional, and animal information, with permission from individual participants, in an effort to understand how to better manage for parasite control.

Scientific Method:

This Stakeholder Citizen Science & Observations Initiative uses the Parasitology Diagnostics lab at Texas A&M University because of its level of excellence in analyzing fecal samples and communicating the results.

  • The EPG’s (Eggs Per Gram) is reported using the Modified Wisconsin Sugar Floatation method with five grams of fecal material and then calculated back to (eggs per one) gram for accuracy.
  • Samples reporting over 100 EPG are analyzed using the McMasters egg counting technique using 2 grams of fecal material and calculating back to eggs per (one) gram.
  • Any sample reporting over 10 EPG is then automatically used for Coproculture analysis which is the process of hatching the eggs to determine the species by identifying larvae.
  • This type of analysis allows you the ability to correctly target the parasites that are impacting your herd and then ascertain after treatment the kill rate (or efficacy) accomplished by the choice of treatment used.

How to become involved:

It’s as easy as watching the video, collecting fecal samples, then contacting us for the process (and the shipping information) by which you will have your Parasitology work for your herd – contribute as observations that help ‘The herd’, (OR) simply using this method to better manage parasitism in your bison. Sharing your Parasitology observations is not required. Just remember!  – When you share – you get shared with.  


We field frustrations from bison owners on a regular basis that ask why do we need to manage these wild and rugged animals of Native North America? Another common perspective is that we were not around to worm them 300 years ago – so, why not just let them roam free, wild, and harvest the production they give us? My standard response is: that’s one way to manage bison – and it will work until it doesn’t. But this is not fair to the species we are so proud to restore to the American landscape in a sustainable conservation model because N. America is no longer native. In fact, it is impacted by alien organisms that have been introduced since the Golden Spike Era in the 1500s.

  • All large grazer internal parasites found in N. America are alien and exotic to it, with the exception of one – Ostertagia bisonis. bisonis is also found in Prong Horn Antelope and Mule Deer without much (or any) negative impact to the health of the animals. It evolved with animals and exists symbiotically, but has been cited as associated with disease in beef cattle. Ostertagia ostertagi (alien and exotic to bison from cattle) is a completely different story and one of the most harmful internal parasites to American bison.
  • Haemonchus is the internal parasite that, in 2017, has been associated with more herd health and productivity problems than any other. It is a sub-Saharan African native and causes health issues associated with blood loss, which can take months to recover from. It is also proving to be very hard to kill, and very hard (or tricky) to manage against without chemical treatment. We have multiple deaths in the southern plains identified as ‘Abomasal Haemonchosis’. Haemonchus (Barbers Pole) resistance to wormer capability is a global discussion and concern. It can also evolve quickly and become genetically different from one habitat (or farm) to the next and is transmitted by many other wildlife species that frequent a property. We have also learned that it does (NOT) appear to be a current large threat to beef cattle. We do not know why the wild difference between cattle and bison exists…

I could go on and on about the importance of performing your own herd-specific Parasitology. Personally, I get excited when I have a chance to identify problems in my herd before they become critical or lethal. We hope you do and join us in using this Stakeholders Citizen Science & Observations Initiative as a management tool.


How to properly collect bison fecals.

Bison Parasitology - Bison Fecal Collection


 Composite samples allow herd owners and managers a more cost-effective way to use the Parasitology Diagnostic Lab as a management tool. Each ‘composite sample’ can contain between (6 -10) and (20-30) individuals of the same age class depending on which of the two methods described (below) you use. The lab charge will be for one sample and will give you a good look at herd parasitism.


  • 1-gallon zip-lock bags (with double seal)
  • 5-gallon bucket
  • Protective rubber gloves
  • Insulated shipping box
  • Cool packs

Method: Protective rubber gloves, like surgical gloves, are recommended when handling fecal samples to help prevent the possibility of zoonotic disease transmission.

  • Fecal collection is made easier if you feed the herd first and then watch for dropping dung. I have also had a lot of luck collecting in the late afternoon when they first get up from their nap.
  • Invert the zip-lock bag over your hand and collect a very small amount (tip of your fingers) of manure from each fresh pile of dung. Continue with the same bag, and additional small amounts until you have collected between 6 and 10 animals in the same handful or bag.
  • A Different Way to accomplish composites in fieldwork with mixed-age classes and varied sample recovery opportunities is to collect individual samples from each age class and combine them later.
    • Collect each sample and identify the age class on the bag.
    • After collecting at least 15% of each age class, take a small 10 gram (one heaping tablespoon full) from each bag (of the same age class) and combine in a bag marked as such.
    • After combining a maximum of 30 to 40 individuals, you should have approximately 1/3 full gallon Ziplock bag.
    • Proceed with sample preparation as described below.
  • IMPORTANT: When doing fieldwork with bison, take safety precautions in the herd-like (A) having a spotter in place to watch for aggressive animals (B) Don’t get too far from a safety escape (C) Listen for bison announcing aggressive intentions.
  • IMPORTANT: In order to get an accurate cross-section-look at herd-parasitism, you (must) collect, combine, and identify each age class separately. (Adult/Adult) – (Yearlings/Yearlings) – (2-4yr/ 2-4yr) – (Nursing Calf/ Nursing Calf)
  • IMPORTANT: Suspect animals that are showing clinical symptoms should be collected and tested as individuals separately from the composites. Be sure to request separate Coprocultures on these individuals as well.
  • Sample Care: immediately after collection, the sample should be placed in a cooler containing cool packs to prevent egg hatching. Three things stimulate egg hatching (1) temperature (2) light (3) Time is also an agent so samples should be shipped within 3 days of collection. Refrigerate samples to maintain integrity and quality.
  • Sample Quality: The fresher the better. Free-living nematodes that exist in the soil microbiology will find the dung in a short time after it is dropped and create analysis problems at the lab. Debris like hay, dirt, sand particles, or other non-fecal matter can also cause problems.
  • Sample Shipment Preparation: (1) Prepare a 5-gallon bucket ¾ full of water. (2) Smoosh the composite sample north/south and east/west to make sure that all samples are blended well. The lab will also perform smooshing (3) Organize the sample at the bottom of the bag and secure the zip-seal. (4) reopen one corner of the bag and push it into the water, compressing all air out – then reseal. (5) Place all, or as many that fit, samples that have been marked and vacuum-packed in a bag together and repeat step (4). The double bagging will help prevent freezing which will kill egg embryos and prevent Coproculture analysis. 
  • Shipment: Place samples in an insulated shipping container with cool packs and ship Fed Ex Priority Overnight. (Do not) use dry ice or ice. Cool packs are readily available at veterinarians, feed stores, and many other types of businesses. Ice is messy, and dry ice kills embryos.
  • Always ship samples Monday thru Wednesday to prevent any shipment issues degrading the samples from sitting over the weekend without refrigeration.
  • REMEMBER: The Southeast Vocational Alliance has a small parcel service for TXBP Collaborators at a reduced cost. Contact them and ask how to become part of it for significant savings on shipment costs.  Provided by Frasier Bison LLC



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