Free-range egg producers are being advised to step up their spring worming strategies, following the exceptionally wet winter.

“This year, the problem of parasitic worms may be even more acute,” said a statement from Elanco Animal Health, supplier of the Flubenvet range of wormers. “Forecasts have highlighted that rainfall has consistently been running well above average.

“This means it’s likely that worm eggs in the environment have been protected in mud and not destroyed by desiccation or exposure to sunlight, potentially allowing more infective worm eggs to survive into the spring this year.”

Even birds that look healthy can be infected with parasitic worms that can lead to poor egg production. Treatment can be highly cost effective, it says, claiming a possible increase of 20 eggs per hen over the standard production period for untreated birds.

For most commercial poultry producers, a regular six-week worming programme will produce the best results, says Elanco.

“This is based on a treatment interval in line with the prepatent period of the worms – the time it takes for a newly infected bird to start shedding parasitic worm eggs into the environment. This more strategic approach contains worm burdens in the birds and minimises environmental contamination.”

The advice applies to both indoor, and more especially, free-range operations. “An infected bird can produce many infectious worm eggs that build up in the environment. After a few years, or months in some instances, the soil can become contaminated with an increasingly heavy worm burden.

“This contamination leads to a high infection pressure, which in turn can increase worm burdens carried by the birds. In these circumstances more frequent worming will be needed to get on top of the worm problem and break this cycle.”

More on this topic

Technically Speaking – our detailed look at worming