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Treatment and control: Tools to assess your farm's parasite risk

There are a range of tools out there to help with the decisionmaking process when it comes to the effective treatment and control of parasites.

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Treatment and control: Tools to assess your farm's parasite risk

Protecting stock against parasites at the correct time and with the correct product is vital for effective control and to prevent resistance developing in your stock.


The use of monitoring tools is important so you know which parasites are an issue, what products to use and when to use them.


Steps for taking a faecal egg count sample


Collect fresh dung samples, ideally from about 10 per cent of the individual group being tested –do not target individuals, for example that may have dirty back ends, but take a representative sample.


■ Send samples off for analysis. Most vets offer an analysing service or send to a national laboratory.


■ Discuss the results with your vet, suitably qualified person or farm adviser and plan treatment options if needed.

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FAECAL egg count (FEC) tests can help farmers understand the level of adult egg-laying worms present in the animal. This allows farmers to develop a more effective and targeted worm control programme tackling the right worm species at the correct time.


FEC tests can also be used post-treatment to determine whether products are working, effectively highlighting any resistance issues in a flock.


Zoetis vet Dr Dave Armstrong says: “When conducting faecal egg count tests farmers can either collect the samples themselves and send them to their vet for analysis, analyse them themselves if they have the kit and the training or send them to a specialised laboratory.


“Keeping a record of all FEC tests will allow you to build a picture of high-risk fields. This can help inform your management strategies, by grazing certain fields to reduce worm burdens or when pasture contamination is high and so deciding to graze animals elsewhere, for example.”


According to suitably qualified person Hefin Rowlands, animal health adviser at Wynnstay, FEC’s are helping deliver accurate advice which supports flock health and productivity while preserving wormer efficacy.




Mr Rowlands says: “Wormers are a crucial part of the toolkit for parasite control but the growing level of anthelmintic resistance on sheep farms across the country is a real threat to the sector.”


“About 94 per cent of sheep farms have reported resistance to white drenches [group one] with resistance to group two and three now also evident. To ensure there are effective options to treat worms in the future, accurate prescription of wormers based on evidential need is important.”


He says developments in technology are making this easier, with it now possible to get results on the level of worm burdens almost straight away.


Mr Rowlands explains that use of a wormer is often not needed, and so testing can save farmers time and money.


“For example, a typical scenario is that farmers often put ill thrift in sheep down to worm burdens. While it could indeed be the problem, there are several other possible causes including mineral deficiencies.”



THE mud snail is the fluke’s intermediate host and is required for them to complete their lifecycle.


Without the mud snail, fluke cannot infect livestock. Dr Armstrong explains mud snails thrive in muddy, slightly acidic conditions, particularly areas associated with poor drainage.




Any farm that contains wet areas, such as gateways, riverbanks and poached grassland, could be a potential hotspot for the mud snail.


If you have fluke on your farm and you have wet areas it is worth investigating to see whether there are any mud snails present and if that is an area that needs managing.



ALTHOUGH flies may not become an apparent problem in stock until early summer, treating before high numbers are seen will make control easier and more effective.


Dr Armstrong says: “By the time cattle or sheep are seen being troubled by flies, a population explosion is already taking place. Once flies take hold it is harder to get them under control.”


Monitoring fly numbers is easy by using a fly trap. As soon as flies are seen in the trap, they will be bothering stock and appropriate action is needed.


Fly traps are available to buy or farmers can simply make their own.


Because of the different flies and the risks they pose, protecting stock throughout the season is the best way to prevent any issues.


There are fly tags that will protect cattle against flies for up to five months and have been found to increase growth rates due to less fly worry and reduce handlings compared to using three doses of a pour on.


Dr Armstrong says when selecting a product, it is important to know what type of fly species you are treating for.


“For example, in sheep some products are insect growth regulators, meaning they stop growth at the larval stage.


“Insect growth regulators will protect against blowfly, but not nuisance or biting flies and will only protect against blowfly at the larval [maggot] stage. This means they cannot be used to treat blowfly infestations.


“However, there are products that will treat all fly species at all different stages. Speak to your suitably qualified person or vet to find out more.”



How to make a fly trap


■ Take a two-litre plastic bottle and cut the top third of the bottle off
■ Make some small holes in the end of the plastic bottle in order to allow rain water to escape
■ Invert the top of the bottle into the remainder of the twolitre bottle and seal it with clips/paper clamps to fasten it in place
■ Place the bait, which can be made up of dog food or an offal-based product, in the bottom of the bottle
■ Hang the bottle on a fence or gate post by fixing string to the paper clamps attached to the bottle

Reducing fluke infection in problem fields

■ Fencing off areas prone to mud snails and where stock grazing that area may have been infected
with fluke. This can help reduce the number of fluke as their lifecycle will not be complete if they are not being ingested
■ Install drainage to help remove boggy areas
■ Quarantine incoming animals for at least 30 days on a hard standing to prevent the mud snail becoming infected
■ Grazing animals away from known risk areas. This will help avoid a high cyst challenge
■ Treating animals at the right time and with the correct product

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