Sheep producers who fail to have a planned approach to flock security when buying in stock could be costing the industry and their businesses dearly.
In fact, a survey carried out by Novartis found only 13-14% of producers quarantined animals at all, with just 5% of these doing it properly.
Quarantining of bought-in stock is crucial to keeping existing flocks healthy, stressed Brian Hosie, manager of SAC consulting vet services.
“Farmers should have an agreed protocol with their vets to minimise the risk of infectious diseases such as sheep scab and MV, and resistant worms being introduced when they bring new stock on farm.”
Failing to quarantine sheep correctly will increase the likelihood of introducing resistant worms or new worms into the flock, explained Fiona Anderson, head vet for the farm animal division at Novartis.
“This will have a detrimental effect on long-term worm control on farm, which will ultimately impact on productivity.
“And with the strong price of sheep, it’s important to protect your investment and ensure you are getting the most from stock,” she said.
Independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings emphasised it was important that farmers made the clear distinction between quarantine protocols and general flock worming strategies.
“Quarantine is important to protect your existing flock from sheep you are buying in and best practice remains the same on all farms. This is different to an overall farm flock worm control strategy which will vary from farm to farm.”
General quarantine strategy when buying in ewes or rams should involve:
• Drenching all stock with an orange wormer to which there is no resistance.
• Injecting with 1% moxidectin (clear wormer).
• Keeping purchased stock on a yard or indoors for the first 24-48 hours.
• Turning out stock on to contaminated pastures so they can pick up any worms that are on farm.
• Keeping stock separate from the main flock for three-four weeks on contaminated pastures; this helps protect the existing flock from other diseases.
By combining the two groups of wormer, farmers can ensure no resistant worms or haemonchus worms are brought on farm, and it also removes the risk of scab, explained Ms Stubbings.
Overall worm risk
In terms of overall flock worm control – an approach that is separate from quarantine strategy – Ms Stubbings said it was important farmers remained vigilant.
“Worm challenge has generally been low so far this year. It remains to be seen if there will be an issue with worms, but we may expect an increase later on.”
She stressed that worm risk was likely to be variable across the country, but farms which had seen little or no rain may be hit particularly hard after any wet weather. Assessing individual pasture risk was also important.
“Producers need to be aware of the risks and carry out faecal egg counts (FEC) a week or two after any rain and worm accordingly.
“Timing is important – if you wait until lambs scour before you worm, you have already lost production, but if you go too soon, worms could peak in between treatments.”
Miss Anderson recommended carrying out FECs now. “Doing FECs every three weeks is a good place to start. Correct worm strategy can then be discussed with a vet.”
• For SCOPs information on quarantining visit www.nationalsheep.org.uk