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May Farm Newsletter

With a largely successful lambing (mainly) behind us, and most cows calved, we all turn our attention to keeping the youngstock thriving over the late spring and summer. Unfortunately, due to the mild winter, we are already seeing many outbreaks of coccidiosis as well as high worm egg counts in young lambs. Have a look at the article in this addition on how we distinguish these.

After last year's disastrous abortion storms in sheep, most people seem to have escaped reasonably unscathed this year, partly due to successful vaccination against Toxoplasma and Enzootic Abortion. Please remember that these vaccines need to be continued each year for all gimmers.

Blowfly Strike - An Increasing Problem? - Thomas Crawshaw

Thanks to climate change the blowfly strike season is expanding.

Latest figures state that strike affects >75% of UK flocks, with 1.5% of ewes and 3% of lambs affected in an average year. At first sheep may appear separated from the flock suffering from anorexia, weight loss and listlessness.

On closer inspection the skin will appear sore and the wool tainted with an odour easily identified. Maggots may or may not be visible. The odour attracts further gravid flies multiplying the number of larvae rapidly. If left untreated strike can cause serious distress and death due to toxaemia. Disease is associated with the feeding activity of larvae. At optimal skin surface temperatures eggs hatch after 12-24 hours into larvae. This high rate of development can cause apparently clean sheep one day to be heavily infested the next.

Factors affecting the risk of strike

Strike risk increased by:
Warm weather
High humidity (summer rain)
Undocked tails (lowland flocks)
Dirty backends
High fly numbers
Foot rot
Head wounds in rams
Thick fleeced sheep
Lack of preventative insecticide use

Strike risk can be reduced by:
Good worm control
Tail docking (lowland flock)
Dagging & crutching
Foot rot control
Shearing (adults)
Frequent flock inspection (by law)
Appropriate insecticide use

Strike control revolves around reducing the number of susceptible sheep and fly abundance. Mechanically this can be achieved via breeding and maintaining less susceptible breeds of sheep, dagging, crutching and tail docking. Chemical control is via preventive and therapeutic use of insecticides.

On farm control depends on your individual set up, however economically, thought should be given to preventing struck ewes and lambs rather than waiting until cases of strike are spotted.

Faecal Egg Counts (FEC) - Matt Evans, 4th year RVC student

What is FEC?
Faecal Egg Counting is arguably the most useful tool to be used in the management of sheep and cattle endoparasites. Worm egg counts are practical, and accurate when used to estimate the burden of adult worms in your livestock. They are more precise than visual assessment and will identify an emerging problem long before any visual signs appear, at which time significant production loss will already be occurring.

Worm egg counts are generally the best means to check the overall worm status of a mob, but become less accurate with smaller numbers, and therefore the more samples used the better.

How is FEC done?
A faecal egg count gives an estimation of the worm burden of your flock/herd, by taking the egg numbers seen in a small amount of faeces and standardising it to give the number of eggs per gram. This involves the collection of dung, either by gathering stock in the corner of the field and picking up any fresh muck or by taking it straight from the rectum. At least 5 random samples are needed. This is then examined under a microscope . The number seen can quickly be converted to give an estimation of the numbers of eggs per gram.

What is FEC used for?
• To help decide if there is a need to treat. (Treating unnecessarily can be expensive).
• To help decide what to treat against. (Treating against the wrong parasite is a waste of money) e.g. Ostertagia, Coccidia, Nematodirus, liver fluke, Haemonchus, Cooperia, whip worm and other trichostrongylus species.
• Help decide if a previous treatment has been successful.
• Give an indication of drug resistance.

When should I do a FEC?
FEC will only give you a snapshot view of the burden within your herd/flock, so the more you do, the more information you have to base your decisions on. However, there are some key times to check.
1. Ewes at lambing time, when immunity is supressed, to see what parasitic load will be turned out to your pasture.
2. Lambs, from about 1 month old, should be checked monthly to detect a problem before it is visible / before growth rates are affected.
3. Calves should be done in the autumn, to give an idea of the burden on the summer pasture, and to prevent worms being over-wintered and causing issues in the new year.

How Much Does it Cost?—From £6.59 + VAT (included in monthly fee for gold and platinum plan clients).


Everyone knows that working dogs are essential to farm life and yet they are often the least-seen by vets so we have little input into advice on feeding and health care. There are so many dog foods on the market and it's tempting just to go for whatever is on offer each month.

However, the best advice is to stick to one diet that suits the dog. As with everything, you get what you pay for!

The main brand of food that we stock is Dechra Specific which has a range of foods to suit every age and size of dog. The diet that is of most interest in working dogs is their CAD (canine active dry) diet. It is a complete and balanced diet made specifically for working dogs. It comes in a 12kg bag and it's VAT free.

During May and June, we have this on special offer at £20 a bag (usual price £32.31). Whilst this might sound a lot for 1 bag, because it is better quality, you need to feed less so this equates to 32p/day for a 15kg dog. We think this is a small price to pay for a healthier dog who will work more effectively and hopefully live extra years as a result of better nutrition.

If you would like to purchase some CAD, please ring your local surgery and a bag will be available the next working day. All Specific diets come with a money back guarantee if the dog will not eat it. For your pet dogs there are plenty of other diets that we can discuss with you at the surgery.

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