Plan now for effective parasite control in 2015

Use this winter to review and plan a parasite control plan with your vet, for optimal flock and herd health in 2015, is the advice from NADIS in their January Parasite Forecast, sponsored by Merial Animal Health.

Sioned Timothy, Ruminant Technical Manager for Merial Animal Health, says: “Developing an integrated parasite control strategy is critical both for livestock health and welfare, and to ensure farm profitability. Implementing this effectively, even where the overall parasite risk is assessed as being low or moderate will be key to controlling parasitic disease and its associated production losses both now and in the coming grazing season.

“In addition to planning treatment strategies, focus should also be placed on husbandry practices, such as quarantining introduced sheep and cattle, and on managing grazing to reduce pasture contamination and the parasite challenge posed to livestock in the coming season. These measures can be effectively implemented as part of a long-term strategy to reduce reliance on anthelmintics to control internal parasites, and thus help protect their long term effectiveness.”

In addition to planning for the longer term, farmers should also be aware of the threat that parasites may currently be posing to stock, and be vigilant for the different ways in which these may manifest. In sheep, low scanning percentages, high barren rates and signs of foetal resorption may be indications of liver fluke.

Disease associated with chronic fluke infections peaks in the late winter/early spring period. Not all affected animals will demonstrate classical ‘bottle-jaw’, so checking of faecal samples for eggs is advised where there are concerns over reproductive performance or ill thrift. Even in low risk areas, where animals are not routinely treated, faecal samples from around 10 ewes will identify levels of fluke infection and whether treating the group is necessary.

A similar approach may be taken to outwintered beef cattle; those not previously dosed that are grazing potentially infected pastures should either be treated, or checked for the presence of fluke eggs in their faeces.

Treatment with nitroxynil (Trodax®) or closantel will be effective on immature flukes from around seven weeks post-infection. Sheep should be moved to clean pasture after treatment and receive supplementary feed to restore body condition.

Farmers should be aware of the risk of parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) throughout the winter in fattening lambs and yearlings, particularly those grazing pastures contaminated earlier in the season by grazing lambs. The risk period may continue into February in areas where mild weather conditions continue. Monitoring pooled faecal egg counts is a reliable assessment of the need to dose out-wintered store or replacement lambs.

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