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Sheep Farmers Warned Nematodirus Gut Worms Already Killing Lambs

Published Wednesday, 30th April 2014 in SAC Consulting news

Kirkton lambs

Sheep farmers and veterinary practices are warned that a fatal infection with Nematodirus battus gut worms has just been diagnosed in a lamb sent for post mortem to our St Boswells Veterinary Centre.

“The worms, which live in the intestines, cause a severe watery “scour” which can result in rapid death”, says Heather Stevenson, sheep vet with SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, part of Scotland's Rural College. “As these parasites are capable of killing lambs before eggs appear in the dung any unexplained deaths should be investigated, for example by sending carcases to SAC Consulting Disease Surveillance Centres for post mortem examination.”

Nematodirus battus worms are a problem in the spring particularly in years where a cold period is followed by a warm spell. The newly discovered case reflects the recent rise in spring temperatures which has triggered hatching of eggs in some areas. After hatching the worms are eaten along with grass and pose a threat to lambs from 6 to 12 weeks old. Outbreaks of disease are most common on fields grazed by young lambs every year in the spring. Those particularly at risk are lambs born in February or March and grazing permanent and heavily stocked pastures.

Farmers are urged to take the appropriate action to prevent disease outbreaks as soon as possible and investigate cases of severe diarrhoea in lambs with the help of their own vets or experts from SAC Consulting Veterinary Services.

Remember that, in addition to nematodirus, lambs in this age group can also be affected by coccidiosis which requires a different treatment. Lambs that do recover are often ill thrifty.

More information on Nematodirus hatching times can be found on the SCOPS website, where a colour coded map indicates the disease risk by region.

When risks are high lambs should be treated with an appropriate wormer from six weeks of age to prevent disease. It is important farmers take advice on which product to use and if resistance is suspected dung samples should be checked for eggs 10 days after treatment.

For more information contact SAC Consulting Veterinary Services at St Boswells on 01835 822456 or Heather Stevenson on 01387 267260.

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