New research, part funded by Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), has highlighted that targeted use of parasitic worm treatment for roundworm in ewes is more effective than blanket treatment.

Roundworms are regarded as one of the major global threats to productivity and the welfare of sheep, as well as contributing to significant economic losses within the industry.

They are mainly controlled by drug treatments, but anthelmintic resistance is becoming an increasing problem in the sector.

Aberystwyth University PhD research by Dr Eiry Williams has studied British farmers’ current approach to Gastrointestinal Nematodes (also known as roundworm) in ewes and surveyed 383 sheep farmers across Great Britain to ascertain current methods used to control infections, specifically in ewes. Studies were then conducted evaluating the effect of utilising targeted selected treatments (TST), compared with blanket treatments, specifically at pre-tupping and lambing time.

Dr Eiry Williams
Dr Eiry Williams (Supplied)

Dr Williams explained: “Findings from this research suggest blanket treatment of all ewes can be avoided on sheep farms through the application of a TST strategy based on many different characteristics or a combination of characteristics, such as BCS, weight, dag score, age, breed with the possibility of behaviours being used in the future.

“Application of TST will lead to a reduction in anthelmintic use, likely leading to a decrease in rate of anthelmintic resistance development, along with maintaining productivity and enhancing economic outputs in the long term.”

Dr Heather McCalman, HCC’s Research, Development and Sustainability Executive commented: “We are pleased to have supported this PhD in a topic which will aid animal health and help farmers develop new management and decision-making practices which offer long-term financial, environmental and animal welfare benefits.

“As we strive for increased sustainability in the sheep sector, strategic anthelmintic use plays a crucial role in ensuring longevity in their efficacy. This work gives a better understanding, through robust science, of when, where and how to use management tools - which will be of benefit to individual farmers and the industry as a whole.”

Dr Williams’ research has recently been published by prestigious scientific journal ‘Animal’.

HCC supports a number of PhD candidates undertaking research which is of benefit to the Welsh sheep and beef sector as part of its research and development portfolio.

HCC has a range of resources and publications on effective worm control in sheep which can be accessed online. Alternatively, farmers can contact HCC directly on 01970 625050 or [email protected] to request paper copies.