EXPERTS are urging sheep farmers to monitor parasite outbreaks to avoid costly infestations.
Zoetis vet Dave Armstrong says farmers should not structure dosing plans on what they did last year, as every year is different.
Mr Armstrong said: “It is vital to not only look at stock, but also weight them and take faecal egg counts. Parasites can majorly limit production factors in sheep, and as winters are getting milder, they are having a larger burden on stock.”
Scottish farmer Allan Smellie farms 2,000 breeding ewes at Posso Farm in Peebles, and prevented a costly parasite outbreak in his lambs by partaking in a routine monitoring programme.
The Parasite Watch scheme, launched by Zoetis, currently involves 18 farms and enables members to keep track of worm, fluke and fly burden levels in stock.
Mr Smellie became involved in the scheme last year, and after taking faecal egg counts from his lambs, it became apparent that coccidiosis was a problem.
He said: “There were no clinical signs in the lambs, but after completing a speciation test on the coccidian, we found that 70 per cent of the eggs were causing harm.”
This early identification meant the lambs were treated before any long-lasting effects, such as diarrhoea or weightless, could affect growth rates.
The scheme ensures Mr Smellie’s lambs currently have bi-weekly egg counts and quarterly fluke tests.
This year, prior to dosing stock, he will be conducting faecal egg counts, in order to prevent on-farm resistance.
He continued: “Structured monitoring of parasites has improved on-farm efficiency and has enabled me to get lambs to the supplier quicker.”
Parasite Watch also alerts livestock farmers to parasite risks in their local area via interactive map.
The data is regularly updated and allows users to see if there are spikes in certain parasites in specific zones.
Find out more on the Zoetis Parasite Watch scheme at www.parasitewatch.co.uk