2 April 1999

Fluke and worm rife after mild, damp winter

PARASITIC worm and fluke populations are high after the mild, damp winter and young stock must be given clean pasture for grazing and treated regularly to avoid poor performance.

Consultant Tony Andrews says a number of worm-related problems such as unthriftiness occurred throughout winter and this is likely to continue into spring with mild, damp weather.

Nematodirus infection, which becomes active when temperatures rise over 10 C (50F), is another risk.

Carmarthen-based veterinary investigation officer Arthur Otter agrees that worms are a bigger threat this year. Sticking to grazing routines such as turning youngstock out on to the same ground each year is increasing risk. "Pasture rotation and preventative treatment must be improved to avoid growth being affected by worm levels," he warns.

Pasture grazed by older animals last year should have lower levels of parasitic worms and should be used for grazing youngstock at turn-out, says Dr Otter.

Also, consider having faeces sampled to determine adult worm populations before reaching for the drenching gun, he adds. "It would be better to spend £7 and have a faeces sample checked before going ahead with treatment. If egg number are very low treatment may be unnecessary."

However, immature worms in sufficient numbers can affect lamb performance and he advises regular worming.

Penrith-based sheep vet Matt Colston advises changing type of wormer used on a routine basis, particularly where resistence is a concern. "Testing for resistance can be costly, but local vets should be able to tell producers whether there is a known resistance problem in their area," says Mr Colston.

Likewise, risk of fluke has increased with the mild, damp winter, warns Dr Andrews. "Fluke may not have the obvious symptoms, but it affects growth. When treating for roundworms check product labels to see whether they are affective against fluke. If not, consult your vet and treat with an appropriate flukicide."

* More worming information in next weeks Anti-parasitic supplement.