July brings new opportunities for managing flock health

This July, sheep farmers will see one of the newest weapons in their armoury for waging war on worms in their flocks become more widely available. But experts are urging that it should be used in a controlled way in conjunction with other treatments, in order to prevent the development of resistance to this new drug.

Following the decision earlier this year by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) a ‘Group 4-AD’ anthelmintic product – known under the brand name Zolvix™ - has been made more widely available from July 1 through agricultural merchants who employ pharmacists or other qualified persons, rather than solely through vets.

The wider availability of this new group of anthelmintic drenches offers the opportunity for sheep farmers to integrate the new treatment into their parasite control plan. But according to SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep), it is essential that the new products are used carefully as recommended so that the effectiveness of this wormer and the existing wormer groups is extended for as long as possible.

Resistance to anthelmintics is a real concern for the sheep industry in Wales and is getting worse year on year, with reports of resistance to the 3-ML group now becoming commonplace.

“There are opportunities for farmers to use Group 4 and 5 products at key points in the season,” explained James Ruggeri, Industry Development Executive at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC), which is a partner in SCOPS. “This would be as part of a quarantine treatment to ensure no resistant worms are brought onto the farm, and as a single use for lambs in the mid/late period of the grazing season.”

“To get the most effective worming programme, along with a sustainable approach to combat anthelmintic resistance, it’s recommended that farmers establish the status of their flocks as regards resistance to groups 1-3 drenches, and consult their vets on the best solution for their farm,” said James.

Vets and parasitology experts are recommending that farmers reduce reliance on anthelmintics by targeted treatment of animals when needed with the appropriate wormer group.

“The responsible use of anthelmintics will be a hot topic at the upcoming Royal Welsh Show,” added James Ruggeri. “Farmers are welcome to call into the HCC Industry Development stand within the NSA building for the latest information.”