Can Co-Grazing Waterfowl Reduce Brainworm Risk for Goats Browsing in Natural Areas?

Katherine M. Marchetto, Morgan M. Linn, Daniel J. Larkin, Tiffany M. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Goats browsing in woodlands, whether for livestock production goals or vegetation management (e.g., targeted grazing to control invasive plants), are at risk of meningeal worm (Parelaphostrongylus tenuis) infection. Indeed, up to 25% incidence has been observed in goats employed in vegetation management. Infection, which occurs via the consumption of an infected gastropod intermediate host, is potentially deadly in goats. We experimentally tested whether co-grazing with waterfowl could reduce goats’ exposure via waterfowl consumption of gastropods. Gastropods were sampled in a deciduous woodland before and after the addition of goats alone, goats and waterfowl, or a control with no animal addition. We found that goats browsing on their own increased the abundance of P. tenuis intermediate hosts; however, when goats co-grazed with waterfowl, these increases were not observed. Importantly, waterfowl did not significantly affect overall gastropod abundance, richness, or diversity. Thus, waterfowl co-grazing may effectively reduce goat contact with infectious gastropods without detrimentally affecting the gastropod community. While co-grazing goats with waterfowl may decrease their P. tenuis exposure risk, additional research is needed to confirm whether waterfowl can actually lower P. tenuis incidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-144
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). Thank you to Jake Langeslag, Peter Marchetto, and Hannah Higar for field and lab assistance, as well as several 4H families for duck rearing assistance. Two anonymous reviewers provided comments to improve the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, EcoHealth Alliance.


  • ecological restoration
  • Parelaphostrongylus tenuis
  • targeted grazing
  • terrestrial gastropods

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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