Beyond the immediate issue of flooded pastures, a wet and mild winter can provide an additional headache to sheep to farmers when it comes to lambing time, giving ideal breeding conditions for some problematic parasites.
The industry-wide animal health body, Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS), is helping farmers to prepare by launching an interactive map which predicts the hatch date for the gut worm, nematodirus.
The map is based on temperature data captured from 140 weather stations across the UK, including 14 in Wales. The nematodirus forecast has been live since 2 March on the SCOPS website http://www.scops.org.uk/forecasts/nematodirus-forecast/.
Young lambs can be afflicted by a worm called Nematodirus battus which impacts the health of the lamb’s gut. A cold spell and frosty nights followed by warmer weather will inevitably increase soil temperatures, triggering a hatch of over-wintered parasites. Predicting when this hatch will occur is the key to knowing when to treat effectively.
Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), a partner in SCOPS, is encouraging pro-active flock and herd health management through the Stoc+ Project, which is one strand of the Red Meat Development Programme (RMDP) – a 5-year Welsh Government and European Union-funded initiative aiming to enhance the red meat sector in Wales.
Dr. Rebekah Stuart, HCC Flock and Herd Health Executive explains, “Based on the information provided by the weather stations in Wales, the risk of nematodirus infection can be monitored, however this prediction needs to take into account the on-farm risk, and the farm’s grazing history.
“Older sheep have acquired natural immunity to the gut worm, and therefore farmers are advised to consider previous grazing history when turning lambs out into pastures. Additionally, lambs which are under stress or are at risk of coccidiosis are at a higher risk of developing the infection.”
Treatment advice and information can be also found on the SCOPS website.
Stoc+ is supported by the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.