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Launch of Free Guide to Sustainable Worm Control in Sheep

A new publication to help farmers develop a worm control plan and minimise the potential build-up of anthelmintic resistance on their farms has been launched by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS).

Produced in collaboration with AHDB Beef & Lamb and Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) Meat Promotion Wales, “Worm Control in Sheep” is full of practical suggestions and follows guidelines set out by the Sustainable Control of Parasites (SCOPS) industry group.

The free, 28-page guide covers the steps farmers should take to ensure that any new or returning sheep coming onto their farm don’t bring resistant worms with them. This is particularly relevant at this time of year with the major sheep sales getting under way around the country and thousands of sheep being moved to new locations.

Late summer also sees millions of lambs being weaned on Scottish farms. Monitoring their growth rates and using faecal egg counts (FECs) will determine the need for a mid-season anthelmintic treatment. The guide emphasises the importance of choosing the right product for the right animal at the right time, to not only ensure effective treatment but to prevent the development of anthelmintic resistance.

The publication emphasises that an effective worm strategy is not just about anthelmintic products. Livestock and grassland management are essential tools in parasitic worm management and the guide has information on assessing and reducing pasture-risk.

One farmer who has been successfully using grazing management to reduce the need for anthelmintics is Andrew Baillie from Carstairs Mains Farm in Lanarkshire. Mr Baillie has an arable and suckler cow enterprise as well as a flock of 550 ewes which lamb in March/April.

He said: “Our strategy is to maximise lamb growth rates by grazing management, grazing chicory and clover leys, and health planning. This includes using FECs to identify and control worm burdens, minimise anthelmintic use and ensure anthelmintic efficiency.”

His strategy has proved successful. By using regular faecal egg counts as a tool to reduce the number of times lambs were treated, Mr Baillie saved £800 in anthelmintics for the 600 lambs and the 400 ewes in the first year of adopting this practice, whilst maintaining average lamb growth rates of 200-300g per day.

Heather McCalman, Knowledge Transfer Specialist at QMS, encouraged farmers to request a copy of ‘Worm Control on Sheep’ and to work with their vet or sheep advisor to develop a worm control strategy for their flocks.

She said: “There are increasing levels of anthelmintic resistance resulting both from intensive grazing of ‘sheep only’ pastures and from a reliance on heavily used products.  There are a range of tactics to use - from the clean and safe grazing offered by silage aftermaths, simply grouping lambs by age and the use of bioactive forages like chicory - which can all contribute to a strategic approach to anthelmintic treatment and worm control.

She added: “It is important that the industry takes steps now to ensure that worms can be effectively controlled in the future.”

To obtain a free copy of “Worm Control in Sheep” contact QMS on 0131 472 4040. It is also available to download from the QMS website here