• Gastrointestinal worms – regular faecal egg counts (FECs) and growth rate monitoring to check for the onset of parasitic gastroenteritis.
• Nematodirus – regular FECs, weather data and other sources to give an indication of disease risk on sentinel farms.
• Liver Fluke – using risk and weather data, coupled with regular sampling on Parasite Watch farms, to provide early notice of predictable threats.
• Flies – data from Parasite Watch farms to prompt early warnings, possibly before it is noticeable around livestock, that fly populations are multiplying quickly.
Overall, Zoetis vet Dave Armstrong says the aim of Parasite Watch is to promote timely decisions by farmers, in conjunction with their SQP animal health adviser or vet, to treat or indeed not treat.
The data collection process is led by Zoetis vets, who will also provide commentary and early warnings of parasite outbreaks and advice on challenges that could threaten sheep wellbeing and productivity.
By using faecal egg counts, data on gastrointestinal worms and Nematodirus are collected fortnighly. Liver fluke levels are being assessed every quarter, and fly populations every week. New data will be supplied regularly to the farming press and published online to give intelligence-based snapshots of parasite outbreaks across the UK.
In addition to data, Mr Armstrong says Parasite Watch farmers have also agreed to share their observations via @Sheep_Farmers on Twitter. “Our aim is to create a resource of real-world and real-time sheep farming information that can help improve health and welfare decisions, and sheep enterprise productivity,” he says.
An advisory blog has also been created at http://liveuk-livestockfarming.ztsaccess.com/ where surveillance results and topical guidance will be posted. One of its early postings says, “2015 was a record low year for parasite outbreaks, but 2016 is unlikely to be the same. It is crucial not to get complacent.”