22 March 2002

Strong nerves needed to hold down parasites

PARASITE control has required a change in management and strong nerves at Kincraigie during organic conversion.

Sheep have received no wormers for the past two years, with Mr Smith combining pasture and faecal analysis with condition scoring to evaluate the impact of worm burden.

"I have learned that when you get a high worm count back it does not mean you have to panic and start worming. We went through last summer with lambs carrying a moderate worm count, but they were in good condition.

"We have also found that when you stress sheep they can go into fairly catastrophic decline," said Mr Smith.

Pasture worm burden is assessed by herbage sampling every three weeks. He does this himself, walking across fields in a "W" motion taking grass samples at regular intervals. Faecal samples are also taken from ewes and lambs. But disposable gloves must be used to protect the sampler from Salmonella or E coli 0157 risk, he advised.

Emphasising the importance of condition scoring, SAC sheep specialist John Vipond said lean ewes under the greatest stress expelled most eggs. But increasing their protein intake could help them build immunity, he added.

An escalating lice build-up is worrying Mr Smith, who initially identified the problem in early January.

He was advised to treat 270 hoggs with topical insecticide. But this did not work and he is seeking further advice on the problem, now rife through the flock, from the Scottish Organic Producers Association (SOPA). &#42