New research, part funded by Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) – Meat Promotion Wales, 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 (roundworm) in ewes.

She also surveyed 383 sheep farmers across Great Britain to ascertain current methods used to control infections, specifically in ewes.

Dr. Eiry Williams Image source: Hybu Cig Cymru

Studies were then conducted to evaluate the effect of using targeted selected treatments (TST), compared with blanket treatments, specifically at pre-tupping and lambing time.

Dr. Williams explained:

“Findings suggest blanket treatment of all ewes can be avoided on sheep farms through the application of a TST strategy based on many different characteristics.

“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.”

HCC’s Research, Development and Sustainability executive Dr. Heather McCalman said that the company is proud to support the PhD which will aid animal health.

She added that as the sheep sector strives for increased sustainability, 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,” McCalman said.

Dr. Williams’ research has recently been published by the scientific journal “Animal” and is available to view on Science Direct website.