Be on the lookout for blood sucking worm as weather warms up 

After 2017 saw anecdotally higher levels of the blood sucking worm Haemonchus contortus, sheep farmers are being urged to look out for signs of their presence as the weather improves.

This prolific worm, otherwise known as the Barber’s Pole worm, can contaminate pastures rapidly and affects both lambs and adult sheep quickly, leading to devastating losses.

Hot spot areas tend to include the South of England and parts of Scotland, where warm temperatures are often seen. However, cases have been reported across much of the UK.

Unlike other gastrointestinal worms, which cause scouring, Haemonchus often presents sick looking sheep with no scouring. This can lead to high levels of mortality if it is not identified quickly.

Emily Gascoigne, a vet with Synergy Farm Health, Dorset, says the parasite is clever as it is a prolific breeder, which can be very ‘destructive’ if it isn’t managed. She has seen many cases in the South West and says last year was one of the worst she’s seen in terms of number of cases.

She says: “I’ve been at Synergy since 2012 and 2017 was the worst year I’ve ever seen cases of Haemonchus in both commercial and small holder flocks. These lambs are not scouring and dead animals may be the first indication of infection you see.”

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