Free-range producers are being urged to be proactive in their fight against worms as wet weather continues to challenge conditions on ranges.

Speaking to Poultry World, Sara Perez, of the Minster Veterinary Practice, said wet weather and humid conditions were providing “ideal conditions” for worms to spread on ranges.

Ms Perez said the most dangerous worm currently affecting free-range flocks was Heterakis gallinae.

“Heterakis acts as a vector to histomoniasis and it can be fatal. There’s no treatment and the only way to prevent it is by worming the birds,” she explained.

Worming

Ms Perez said sampling faeces prior to worming was the best method to adhere to when it came to setting up a worming programme.

“It is important to know which worms you have first, because the cycle of worms variants differ.

“For example, capillaria has a very short cycle of four weeks and if you have a high level of this treatment should be every four weeks.”

Ms Perez said to ensure comphrehensive cover faeces samples should be tested four to five weeks apart.

Grass conditions

Maintaining good grass conditions could also help to lower worm counts, she added. One way of doing this is by keeping the grass short.

“UV rays from the sunlight will kill worm eggs,” she explained.

Steve Clout of Humphrey Feeds said cutting the grass would also make it easier for birds to digest.

“Using a flail mower to break it up into smaller pieces will make it easier to digest and prevent grass becoming tangled in the gizzard.”

But Ms Perez warned against containing the birds, as this could do more harm than good.

“Some producers have been shutting their birds inside, but you have to be careful, especially if you’re marketing eggs as free range.

“The other problem with keeping birds indoors is natural ventilation very much depends on fresh air coming in from popholes and you can get a build up of ammonia.

“It’s almost better to let birds go outside, because you won’t compromise air conditions.”

Instead, she said producers should cover waterlogged areas with sand or pallets to avoid birds drinking dirty water and disinfect the area to kill bacteria such as E coli and brachyspira.

“Using disinfectant on the range can help, particularly one to two metres from the popholes, as this is where bacteria are at the highest levels.”

Top tips:

  • Sample faeces prior to worming so you know exactly what to treat
  • Testing should be done four to five weeks apart to ensure comphrehensive cover
  • Keep the grass short to kill eggs
  • Avoid shutting the birds indoors, as this will affect ventilation inside the shed
  • Use sand or pallets to cover waterlogged areas on the range and prevent birds from drinking dirty water