Call to sheep farmers to ‘know your worms’

Sheep farmers should have a good knowledge of the worms on their farm according to a new campaign launched by the Animal Health Distributors Association (AHDA). The association is encouraging farmers to check on the effectiveness of their wormers using FECs (Faecal Egg Counts).

Andrew Pattison works for R M Jones Agricultural Chemists, based in Hay on Wye, and is the SQP (Suitably Qualified Person) representative on SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep). He says: “It’s really important for sheep farmers to look at what they are doing and to manage the wormers and the worms on the farm. You can’t do that if haven’t got a correct picture of what’s going on. Faecal Egg Counting (FEC) is the only way to do it.”

Edgar Jones of Wilmaston Farm sought Andrew’s advice after noticing that his lambs were not thriving and that there was a certain amount of scouring present. After taking the advice to carry out FECs in order to understand the nature of burden, he now has a clearer picture of what is going on in his flock and the tools to treat it accordingly.

He says: “It has been really important to carry out FECs; if you don’t do it then you don’t know where your flock stands. It’s possible to go day-to day without noticing the worm burden in the flock.”

Using the information from the FECs, Edgar has been able to build up a picture of susceptibility to wormers on his farm and understand the type of worms that were present. This provided valuable information so he could choose the correct worming strategy.

Independent consultant and representative of SCOPS Lesley Stubbings has contributed to the campaign material. She says: “SCOPS has realised for some time that some farmers do not recognise the need to act while wormers are still apparently working to control clinical disease on their farms.

“In many cases sheep farmers are still achieving good levels of worm control with their current strategies. However, resistance is out there and can be detected if we look for it. We can delay the onset of resistance if we adopt the right strategies. With the wrong strategy the loss of clinical worm control can be very rapid – potentially within a single grazing season.”

Top Tips from SCOPS

Check the Weight – Millions of pounds worth of wormers are wasted every year because farmers underestimate the weight of sheep. This speeds up the development of resistance.

Quarantined – Resistance to anthelmintics can be brought in with purchased sheep. The correct quarantine treatments are essential for all in-coming sheep to remove resistant worms.

Adult Sheep – Mature sheep that are fit and healthy have immunity to most worms which means that the times when adult sheep need to be wormed are very limited.

Use FECs – You can check if you have resistance on your farm simply and cheaply by taking dung samples for Faecal Egg Counts (FEC) pre and post drenching. Talk to the SQPs at your local AHDA outlet for more information.

Timing – Most farmers who use FECs to monitor worm burdens use less anthelmintic without any loss in flock performance. In many cases lambs actually do better because they are treated at the right time.

Know Your Parasites – If you know which internal parasites you have on the farm, you can target them more effectively and with the most appropriate product. This significantly reduces the chances of developing resistance on your farm.

Pasture Management – Drenching sheep and then putting them straight on to clean pasture increases the risk of anthelmintic resistance developing on your farm. Delaying the move or leaving some sheep untreated will reduce this risk.

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