Challenging market conditions as a result of COVID-19 means sheep producers must be more focussed than ever on reducing inefficiencies if they are to make a profit or break even, a sheep expert is warning.
Eurion Thomas, European operations manager at Techion UK, said as much as £12,000 could be being lost on over 80% of sheep farms in the UK due to ineffective worming.
He said: “In this year, more than ever, we are going to see tight margins and a lot of uncertainty as a result of COVID-19. Farmers need to be safeguarding their businesses and doing everything they can to get rid of any inefficiencies.
“We have found the reduced weight gain in lambs caused by using an ineffective wormer results in a significant loss in income. So, identifying resistance on your farm and treating sheep at the right time and with the right product is an easy win.”
Ideally, to identify treatment failure farmers should be taking at least one pooled faecal egg count (FEC) before and after treatment a year for each active ingredient. If problems are identified, then further tests should be followed up with the farm’s vet or animal health advisor.
It’s also worth testing the same active ingredient for efficacy at different times of the year as it could throw up different results as not all types of worms may be resistant to that wormer on a farm.
The best time to conduct the test is anytime from summer through to autumn and only from groups of lambs.
To collect samples farmers should:
- Gather 15-20 fresh samples In older samples the eggs could have hatched giving an incorrect reading;
- Seal in a bag with no air and if they are not being processed that day they should be stored in a cool, dry place or ideally a fridge;
- Checking for resistance/efficacy should only be done in groups of lambs and where there is a high worm burden before treatment;
- 14 days should be left between treatment and resampling the stock if a white or clear drench is used, and seven days for a yellow drench.
Mr Thomas added: “FEC test are a monitoring tool which gives an indication of adult parasites on the farm. The more often farmers test, the more data they have and the better placed they will be to control parasites on their farm.”
Farmers involved in the Zoetis Parasite Watch Scheme are monitoring parasites using FECPAKG2 on a regular basis to help inform treatment decisions.
Sheep farmer Tom Carlisle, Coxons Farm, Skipton, said regularly taking FEC samples every 2-3 weeks has often alerted him to problems before any clinical signs.
He said: “Quite often we don’t see clinical signs, but the egg counts have shown us otherwise. If you wait until you have clinical signs and the lambs are going mucky and they are nicked in at the belly you have lost growth and it can take them over a month to get back on track.
“We’ve been really surprised how there’s really no need to dose every month and this has saved us hundreds of pounds every year. Taking an egg count sample has also shown us how random it can be, and you may expect a low egg count because it’s been dry, but it comes back high.”
Farmers, vets and SQPs can access the latest Parasite Watch data by either signing up to receive monthly updates or visiting the website, which is located HERE, to help monitor and manage worms more effectively.