Westpoint Farm Vets are encouraging sheep farmers to conduct faecal egg count (FEC) tests in their ewes and rams prior to tupping to identify and manage any worm burdens that could impact fertility & conception rates.
Dr Ami Sawran from Westpoint Farm Vets explained that the recent warm and wet weather has provided perfect breeding conditions for worms with egg count data from the Zoetis Parasite Watch scheme reporting medium and high egg counts across the UK.
The blood-sucking worm Haemonchus contortus may be a concern in some areas of the country where there have been high temperatures. Unlike with gut worms, ewes are unable to build up some tolerance to the blood sucking worm.
She pointed out that rams are more susceptible to worms as ewes as they often have less exposure to parasites and failure to manage parasites prior to mating can lead to sub-optimal fertility. Any ewes suffering from worms likely will not be in optimal body condition which can limit their ability to get pregnant
Dr Sawran said: “The sperm cycle takes 7-8 weeks, so you have got to be thinking about the health of that animal two months before they are being mated.
“If you have a significant worm burden at any point in the sperm cycle you will end up with sub-optimal fertility.
“A compromised animal will physiologically be more focused on staying alive themselves rather than becoming pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy. If you can get on top of worms now you can then focus on getting ewes in the correct body condition before breeding.
“Sheep cannot overcome Haemonchus. If you have any suspicion it may be present speak with your vet.”
“Treatment choices will depend on the burden and it is important you speak with your vet or Registered Animal Medicines Advisor (RAMA) to advise.”