Worms Threaten Scottish Sheep

Profitability in the Scottish sheep sector is being threatened by worms because the parasite is becoming resistant to drugs, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) which is looking to scientists to help tackle the problem.

Worm infection is estimated to cost the Scottish sheep sector £16m a year or roughly £5 a lamb. The parasites weaken livestock and mean they take longer to finish. Depending on the extent of the problem worms can have a major impact on farm business profitability.

The situation is being exacerbated by a growing resistance to anthelmintics, the drugs used to control the parasites.

QMS has already commissioned research by the Institute of Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow Medical School into the extent of the problem.

Professor Michael Stear, speaking at the QMS Research and Development Conference, said: "Scotland like many other sheep producing countries has been caught up in a vicious cycle as far as the problem of worm infection is concerned.

"Nematodes continue to cause problems and our short term solutions, the traditional anthelmintic drugs that are normally used to control the parasites, are becoming less and less effective.

"The challenge is to improve the uptake of existing methods and identify new ways of tackling this issue in the medium term and help the industry to control its most costly disease."

QMS industry development manager, Andy McGowan, said: "This is a growing problem and it's stripping profit out of sheep farm businesses at a time when they can least afford it.

"We are committed to investing funds in this area of research with a view to finding a solution that improves both the overall health of our sheep flock and cuts into the £16m bill for worm infection footed annual by our sheep industry."

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