Parasite infections costing sheep industry millions says EBLEX

Parasite infections costing sheep industry millions says EBLEX

Farmers are being urged to correctly worm farm dogs to help sheep reach target specifications and reduce the number of carcase rejections from processors which cost the industry millions of pounds.

The call has come from EBLEX amid growing concern in the processing sector about parasite infections spread by dogs affecting thousands of sheep. In 2012, almost £5 million was lost in the industry due to sheep measles (Cysticercus ovis) being found in 66,500 sheep, while more than £1 million was lost as 742,000 livers were rejected because of bladder worms (Cysticercus tenuicollis).

Sheep measles results from an adult canine tapeworm (Taenia ovis) and is spread when infected dogs shed eggs via their faeces onto pasture. Within weeks of sheep ingesting eggs, they start to develop infective cysts, typically found in the heart, and potentially in the diaphragm and cheek muscles in more pronounced cases. Infection cannot be identified before slaughter but often results in rejection of the entire carcase.

Bladder worms (Cysticercus tenuicolis) originate from another canine tapeworm (Taenia hydatigena). Eggs hatch in the intestine of the sheep, before spreading to tissues surrounding the abdominal organs and liver. In addition to liver rejections, infrequent moderate to heavy infections can lead to longer finishing periods, increased feed costs and loss of value due to sheep not reaching target specification.

Producers are being urged to ensure all dogs are prevented from scavenging carcases and are not fed raw meat. Deadstock should therefore be removed promptly. Dogs should be routinely wormed with the correct dose and product specific for tapeworms. They should also ensure dogs visiting farm premises are wormed correctly or prevented from accessing sheep grazing areas.
Although foxes may be involved in transmitting some of these tapeworms, they are much less efficient at doing so. In some sheep-rearing areas of the world, tapeworm condemnations are significant in lambs even though no foxes exist in the country.

Dr Phil Hadley, EBLEX southern senior regional manager, said: “The processing sector is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of dog parasites on carcases and offals and the figures speak for themselves.

“However, the potential financial impact of sheep measles and bladder worms is not exclusive to processors. Producers can also succumb to its effects with the potential loss in livestock values by not reaching target specification. As such, correct and routine worming procedures are imperative in helping the sector combat the financial and health impact of parasite infections.”

Dr Siân Mitchell, veterinary parasitologist of the AHVLA, said: “Although there are a large number of products available to worm dogs, not all contain chemicals that are active against cestodes. Only praziquantel is effective against the tapeworms discussed above as well as Taenia multiceps the cause of ‘gid’ and Echinococcus granulosus (hydatid disease) a zoonotic parasite. Regular treatment of farm dogs every six weeks, or as advised by your veterinary surgeon, as well as prevention of access to carcases or raw meat, are essential in the control of these parasites.”

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