Welcome to the very first Parasite Watch update; the free service keeping UK sheep farmers up-to-date. In a very short time we have seen so much with full fly traps pretty much everywhere, starting very early in Dorset and then moving up the country and Nematodirus showing a very similar pattern, with high counts early in the season. Other diseases, such as Coccidiosis, have had a big impact on lamb rearing and that is exactly what we’ll be exploring in this post as we look at the first quarter of Parasite Watch.
For Parasite Watch farmer Alan Smellie near Peebles, the first treatment decision prompted by the service was to do nothing at all. On account of the mild wet winter and a good number of ewes spending time on known flukey ground, his 1,200 ewes were tested for liver fluke before lambing. “Of course, it’s great to save money by avoiding unnecessary medicine use,” says Alan. “But more important still is knowing that treatment wasn’t needed.” This illustrates perfectly Alan’s reasons for becoming a Parasite Watch farm in the first place.
This is another good example of taking information and turning it into intelligence on which to base good decisions. Clearly, Alan exemplifies this in practice. For sheep farmers everywhere, this is what Parasite Watch aims to help create: Evidence‑based decisions about what to treat, when to do it, and just as important, when not to.
Two dose protection
Rather than dosing by the calendar – whether for roundworms, Nematodirus or fluke – Alan is eager to give treatments only when they are justified. Indeed, last year before joining the programme, he carried out post‑treatment tests to assess wormer efficacy, and will repeat the exercise this summer. “We need to know which medicines are fully effective and any that are not,” he explains. “It’s not something you can guess or judge by eye.”
Overall, Alan is looking for three main gains from Parasite Watch:
1) Healthy ewes and lambs; high productivity, low mortality, good welfare
2) Efficient and costeffective use of medicines when they are justified and a good return on investment as a result
3) Surveillance and early warning of a decline in efficacy of wormers and flukicides.
The Burns family have been utilising the Parasite Watch scheme to determine their need to worm, high coccidial counts have led to treatment, and caused an early knock back, but then having wormed on high egg count results and they have gained around an average of 350g per day (as can be seen from the growth rate graph below).
Saintfield, Northern Ireland
Lambs are thriving on the Parasite Watch farm owned by Crosby Cleland. Despite slower grass growth early in the season due to the poor weather conditions, the lambs have averaged 260g to 300g per day, with only the triplets and late lambs receiving any meal.
Samples for faecal egg counts are continuing to be forwarded to the lab every two weeks. In the most recent results coccidial oocysts were apparent, and decoquinate was added to the creep feed. Crosby is considering his strategy for next year and will consider starting the coccidiastat earlier in the season.
Here, as well as the earlier Nematodirus hatch and positive egg counts for other worms, the major issue has been flies, with the strike never been as bad as it has this year, although this is not good news it has been able to act as an early warning system for other famers in the area, to get ahead of the fly season, treat early and treat regularly is the way to successfully control the parasites. The use of the Parasite Watch fly traps has given a visual image of the potential outbreak.
The UK Nematodirus forecast can be found on the SCOPS website to give a local picture, our Parasite Watch farms have been sampling regularly to determine when Nematodirus has been found on their farms and the levels, it has been running from the Parasite Watch farms in the south, with the ones in the Far North of Scotland starting to see some eggs now.
Local farms, SQPs and vets have been utilising this for testing and treatment advice around those areas. The graph below shows the increase in Nematodirus eggs on our Parasite Watch farms over May and June, with a steep climb and decline on all farms, the first peak is the farms below Oxford, the second peak is below the Scottish borders and the latest peak is Scotland.
Want to be kept in the loop about the latest threats? Be sure to check out our Sheep Farming pages on both Facebook and Twitter and let us know: What are you looking out for with your flock? Any major concerns that you've had to action this year?
For further information please contact Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. www.zoetis.co.uk. Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (www.noah.co.uk/responsible). Date of preparation June 2016.