Experts are warning farmers to test their livestock, after ‘unexpectedly high’ worm egg counts have been recorded in animals, in areas experiencing drought.
Sheep farmer Peter Baber, who lambs 900 ewes of Exlana, Suffolks, SufTex and Texels at Weir Park Farm, near Exeter in Devon, last tested his lambs on July 30. The results revealed worm egg counts of 2,240 eggs per gram (EPG), despite the ground being ‘burnt to a cinder’. The suggested threshold for treatment is 250 EPG and above.
Mr Baber believes that worm eggs must have been building over time, with lambs having been drenched six weeks previously, due to high counts.
As a result of the extreme conditions, Mr Baber said he had expected worm egg counts to be low. “It was quite a shock to see such high worm egg counts,” he commented. “Lambs are performing relatively well, considering the lack of grazing, and we’ve had no signs of scouring. However, with such a high burden, we expect there has been some production loss.”
He added: “We think our sheep have developed a level of worm resilience, so they can now perform with such a high burden.”
Mr Baber has since drenched the lambs, and he will continue to monitor his stock, as he expects that worm egg counts may rise again when the wet weather arrives.
“Treating lambs now will hopefully reduce the worm egg output in the next few weeks and maximise performance on the limited grazing currently available.”
Mr Baber takes faecal egg counts from each group of his livestock every two weeks and conducts post-drench faecal egg count tests 10 to 14 days post-drenching – to check if the product has worked.
“I advise farmers to regularly test as you can’t tell if they have worms just by looking at them,” he said.
Zoetis vet Ally Ward said that data from the Zoetis Parasite Watch Scheme shows that high worm egg counts are becoming more common.
“It is a varied picture. The expectation would be on those farms experiencing drought to have low egg counts, but that is not what we are seeing. This reinforces the need to regularly test stock every couple of weeks to help build a picture of what is happening on your farm,” Ms Ward said.
The Zoetis Parasite Watch Scheme comprises 26 farms across the country, which regularly test faecal egg counts and for fluke. Farmers can sign-up for free to receive alerts or visit the website at www.parasitewatch.co.uk for the latest information on worms in their area.