Farmers turn to faecal egg counts amid rising wormer inefficacy

Internet connected and image-based, FEC testing can be carried out virtually anywhere, including on-farm
Internet connected and image-based, FEC testing can be carried out virtually anywhere, including on-farm

The increasing use of the latest faecal egg count technology is helping improve anthelmintic prescription within the sheep sector.

The technology is helping farmers deliver accurate advice that supports flock health and productivity while preserving wormer efficacy.

It counts the number of worm eggs in faeces and is used to monitor the worm burden in sheep.

The results are presented as ‘eggs per gram’ of faeces and the number of eggs is an indication of the number of adult worms in the gut of the sheep

It comes as the sector fears an increasing threat due to the level of anthelmintic (anti-worm) resistance on sheep farms across the UK.

But according animal health advisor Hefin Rowlands from Wynnstay, faecal egg counts (FECs) are becoming a routine part of their consultancy to farm clients.

“94% of sheep farms have reported resistance to white drenches (group one) with resistance to group two and three now also evident.

“To ensure there are effective options to treat worms in the future, accurate prescription of wormers based on evidential need is important,” Mr Rowlands said.

He said developments in technology are making this easier, with it now possible to get results on the level of worm burdens almost straight away.

Internet connected and image-based, testing can be carried out virtually anywhere, including on-farm.

“The system is easy to use and allows us to collect, test and receive FEC results within a couple of hours,” Mr Rowlands added.

Use of a wormer is often not needed, and testing can save farmers both time and money, he said.

“For example, a typical scenario is that farmers often put ill thrift in sheep down to worm burdens. While it could indeed be the problem, there are several other possible causes including mineral deficiencies.

“One of our farmers saved £330 over a four-month period, by taking the decision to conduct regular FEC’s instead of treating with a wormer.

“While historically he would have wormed his lambs three times within this period, FEC results gave him the confidence that the ill thrift he was noting was not due to worms, but in fact trace element and mineral deficiencies,” Mr Rowlands said.

He noted how sheep farmers are gradually changing their approach to wormer use and recognising the wider benefits of a more accurate and targeted approach.