Farmers can now facilitate their own flock faecal egg counts more easily, frequently and cheaply due to a new system.
The FECPAKG2 system eliminates the need for manual counting by microscope, and technical training, and is part of a two-year project supported by Sainsbury’s.
A FECPAKG2 unit contains a device called a MICRO-1 which photographs the sample at microscopic level and uploads the image to the internet.
An egg count is performed by a lab technician and the results are returned to the farmer by email. The data is also stored online for future reference and reporting.
The system can be used by farmers or vets and commercial users who want to provide a service for farmers. Either way the results can easily be shared between the farmer and vet or adviser.
Eurion Thomas, European operations manager for Techion, the company managing the project, says he is confident it will have a significant impact on farmers’ profits and efficiency as parasites are the largest influencing factor on animal performance after nutrition.
“We have about 60 farmers using the system at the moment who all report they are finding it a useful tool. It is giving them improved data quickly which enables them to make informed parasite management decisions. This should help to increase profitability, lamb performance and reduce treatments,” he says.
Catrin George, who runs 450 mainly Beulah Speckled Face ewes has been involved with the FECPAKG2 project since February 2015 and is also part of the TAG project which helped fund FEC monitoring to link ewe nutrition and parasite issues.
Prior to taking part in the project, Mrs George did occasional faecal egg counts in conjunction with her vet, but says she did not really have a clear picture of the extent of the worm problem on the farm so tended drench routinely.
Ewes were normally wormed in early May about eight weeks after lambing at the same time as the lambs got their first drench. Lambs were then wormed at 12 weeks and regularly thereafter whenever it was thought necessary.
This year ewes were checked using FECPAKG2 prior to lambing. Post-lambing they were split into groups and checked again about every two weeks until early May.
Mrs George says: “I was surprised to find egg counts on the ewes were creeping up when they were inside pre-lambing. I thought that when they were inside worms would not increase. We wormed them after lambing before turn out, and then tested them regularly until May. This showed continuous low egg counts, so we have not needed to worm them since then.
“We also kept a control group which we did not worm, and as the season went on their egg counts reduced without any intervention which was another surprise.
“Ewes were tested again in mid-September – and as there was no problem, they were not wormed pre-tupping.”
Lambs were also split into groups with each group tested about every two weeks and then treated as and when necessary.
Mrs George says: “The system is very easy to use and means you can test as and when you want. When we get the results I then take professional advice as to the most appropriate treatment.
“It has meant, overall, we have drenched much less, which has been both financial and labour-saving and lambs have performed at least as well as usual. Also, we know the treatment we have used has been effective and should help us to avoid anthelmintic resistance on-farm.”