Sheep Farmers warned parasites are killing lambs

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Staff at SAC’s Veterinary Surveillance offices in Ayr, Dumfries, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are reporting the early hatch of parasitic worms they forecast earlier this year, is happening.

They warn this has already led to lamb deaths in Ayrshire, Dumfries, the Lothians and Aberdeenshire from the severe damage the Nemotodirus battus worms do to the lamb’s digestive tract. Sheep farmers are being urged to use appropriate anti worm treatment as soon as possible and to investigate any unexplained lamb deaths with the help of their vets and SAC.

Nematodirus battus worms are a particular problem in the spring, especially when the weather warms up after a cold spell. There is a mass hatch of the parasites onto the grass pasture the lambs nibble at. Once inside them the immature worms can cause sudden death or a watery diarrhoea which leaves them weak and susceptible to another parasite causing coccidiosis and kidney damage. This increases losses.

According to the Vets from SAC Consulting Veterinary Services conditions this year raised the risk of coccidiosis. The late wet spring held back grass growth so flocks required supplementary feeding on wet muddy ground.

Ayr based vet Dr George Mitchell believes heavily stocked, low ground, permanent pastures are particularly at risk.

He said: “When risks are high we at SAC recommend treating lambs with the appropriate wormer from six weeks old. There can be a very rapid rise in worm numbers and when that happens two doses, 7-10 days apart, are advised.

“However there is evidence that on some farms the parasites are resistant to particular treatments so farmers should take advice on which one to use. If resistance is suspected then they should check dung samples for worms 10 days after treatment.”

SAC offers a Wormscan service on pooled dung samples to reduce cost. Details are available from the nearest SAC Veterinary Centre.