10 April 1998

HEALTHY STOCK = GOOD BUSINESS

PROTECTING stock health will be more important than ever this season with margins becoming increasingly tight across all species. Healthy stock will be productive, and thats the main step towards profitability.

But guarding against infestation by parasites – be they internal or external – is never easy. Admittedly there are first-class products on the market to make treatment as easy and effective as possible. But their correct use is always essential – not only to ensure efficacy, but to protect the environment.

Sheep dipping is a case in point. Operators must be properly trained and competent. As this supplement points out, a certificate of competence in the safe use of sheep dips will soon be required to buy synthetic pyrethroid as well as OP dips. The test will also now include a section on practical aspects of dipping.

In addition to requiring a certificate in the use of dips, safe disposal of the spent dip to prevent groundwater contamination must be a priority. Farmers are well advised to use products available for treating used dip to reduce its polluting potential. But first it will be important to check which is the correct product to use with the manufacturer of the dip concerned and the Environment Agency.

Concerns over the use of dips, and increasing resistance of scab mites to SP dips, could see an increase in the use of injectable treatments this year – and again correct technique will be essential to ensure protection of the entire flock.

Good news for the future is the likelihood of a vaccine for scab – and so too for worms in cattle and sheep.

The latter is closer to commercial fruition, but extra funds are needed to speed its development. Meanwhile, feeding extra protein to ewes could be one way to reduce the need to dose lambs – although at this stage the cost of feeding the extra protein is too high compared with the anthelmintic for controlling worms.

As far as cattle are concerned, the biggest concern this season could well be lungworm in adult dairy cows and heifers – and as top vets suggest in this Supplement, care must be taken when formulating worming programmes to ensure risks of stock succumbing to this unpredictable disease are minimised.