Sainsbury’s is investing in new technology that will help its sheep farmers to improve returns through better worm control on-farm.
The two-year project will support the new FECPAKG2 system for use on farm or by vets which will do away with the need for manual faecal egg counting (FEC) by microscope and technical training.
In the longer term, the team aims to develop the new technology further to give automated decision support and management tools.
Sainsbury’s is supporting this project through its Agricultural R&D Grant Scheme, co-financing the roll-out of equipment and running costs for farmers in its development group.
Philip Hambling, agriculture manager for lamb and pork at the retailer, said: “This project will make egg counting easier and more reliable.
“More frequent counting will give our farmers the power to make informed decisions that benefit the performance of the flock and to make more effective use of anthelmintics.”
Leicestershire farmer Gareth Owen has been piloting the system since December. “In the past we would have sent samples away for FEC testing, which inevitably delayed results return by a couple of days.
“The system is user friendly and puts accurate information at our fingertips so we can make a decision sooner on whether we need to drench or not. Being able to process my own samples easily and with confidence also means I am doing far more testing, which is proving to be very important for us. Having the information and results automatically recorded on the web means both my livestock consultant and I can easily access it, and allows us to make much better informed management decisions.”
Sainsbury’s suppliers Bill and Matt Geen from north Devon have been FEC testing for the past five to six years.
“We have worked closely with our vets, who do the counting for us, and would monitor between 40 and 50 samples a year. Unfortunately we have a known problem with resistance, but regular monitoring helps us target treatments with the wormers we know are effective, and this has meant our lamb performance hasn’t had to suffer.”
He supports the retailer’s move, as he believes lamb producers should be FEC monitoring and benefiting from it like he has.
The Green’s vet, Mike Glover of Torch Farm Vets, supports this view. “Through regular monitoring, Bill and Matt Geen have been able to control worms more effectively and manage resistance. We will trial the FECPAKG2 under the Sainsbury’s scheme in the practice this year in the expectation that it will add value to our existing service.”