Farming Against Wormer Resistance Campaign

Results from the Farming Against Wormer Resistance (FAWR) survey, revealed on 28th May 2013, give valuable insight into the reality of wormer resistance for the UK sheep farming industry.  

In-depth answers from almost 400 farmers, analysed by the campaign’s panel of experts, show the necessity for the growing awareness of wormer resistance to be urgently translated into practical action, ideally starting with testing to understand each individual farm’s resistance status.

“Awareness and understanding of wormer resistance is growing, which is good,” says Fiona Anderson Novartis Animal Health Veterinary Manager.  “Looking at the results, we can see that well over half of respondents had heard of resistance being an issue in their area – with levels as high as 78% and 76% in the South West and South Wales.  However, there is clearly still some confusion about the best course of action.

“Three quarters of respondents were worried about wormer resistance, however I’m concerned that less than 30% had actually tested for it. While the number of farmers aware of possible productivity decline as a result of resistance is encouraging, it does reveal that testing is still not seen as important for a robust worming strategy, and shows a gap between concern and action that we need to address.”

Industry Working Together to Tackle Wormer Resistance

The FAWR survey, is a campaign initiated by Novartis Animal Health in conjunction with key sector leaders.  The project will be driven throughout the coming months by the FAWR expert panel  including Lesley Stubbings (SCOPS representative and Independent Sheep Consultant), Phil Stocker (Chief Executive, National Sheep Association), Mike Glover (Torch Farm Vets), Fiona Anderson (Novartis Veterinary Manager), Charles Sercombe (NFU Livestock Board Chairman) and Sheep Farmer Matt Blyth.

“Anthelmintic Resistance (AR) in the UK is a growing threat, and all the evidence to date has now been backed up by the views of sheep farmers represented in this nationwide survey”, says Helen Langham, Category Manager at Novartis Animal Health. “The FAWR campaign was initiated as we recognise the concerning impact of wormer resistance, and wanted to further raise the profile of this important issue, underpinning the excellent work already carried out by organisations such as SCOPS, and to help incite a call to action at all levels.  Working together, we will be more able to fight wormer resistance, critical for the future of UK sheep farming.”  

Understanding Resistance Status

“The results of this survey are very encouraging because they confirm that sheep farmers are increasingly aware of the threat of AR, with 2/3rds saying they have a strategy in place to address it,” says Lesley Stubbings. “Our challenge now is to turn that awareness into action. To do this we must demonstrate that AR is costing them performance and hence profitability.

“This survey clearly shows that a third of the farmers have noticed a decline in their flock performance over recent years and we know that AR is major component of declining performance because worm control is compromised. Only by testing for AR can farmers establish whether or not AR is already costing them as the efficacy of their wormers falls.  With just 30% of the respondents testing for AR currently there is clearly a long way to go to make this a routine part of flock health plans, but it’s a good start’.

“Looking further into the data there is still a very heavy reliance on the white drenches with 90% of farmers used them in their worming programme in the past 5 years” continues Lesley Stubbings. “This is a concern if less than 30% have tested to see if they are still effective, although on a positive note, the numbers relying on a single active is now in decline. Instead of doing what they done in the past, farmers should be looking to seek professional advice to understand the resistance status on their own farms -  this is the first step in building a robust flock health plan incorporating worming, which is so important for their future viability. ”

On a further positive note, of those farms that confirmed wormer resistances, over 85% have subsequently incorporated the fourth (orange) class and fifth (purple) class into their worming programme. “By carefully integrating a new wormer group into their strategy, farmers will extend the useful life of the older wormer classes and should see benefits in terms of lamb performance”, said Lesley.

Building a Suitable Worming Management Programme

The survey also revealed the positive trend of an increase in contact between sheep farmers and vets in the last 5 years.  Just under three quarters of farmers looked to their vet for advice on worming with over half of them making contact more than twice a year.

“Seeking professional advice on wormer resistance is crucial in helping to explain the issues,” says Mike Glover from Torch Farm Vets, “and it is good to see the contact between sheep farmers and vets starting to increase nationwide. For a flock health plan incorporating worming to be robust and successful, understanding of a farm’s individual resistance status is important, there should be an ongoing dialogue between sheep farmers and vets, and ideally testing should be done more than once a year to take into account into account the seasonal variation in worm species and resistance to wormers”.   

“At Torch Farm Vets, we are consistently building on the relationship with our sheep farmer clients, and find engaging regularly ensures they receive the most appropriate advice and enables suitable follow-up.  We put in place a robust wormer management programme for each individual farm as an integral and important part of every farmer’s flock health plan”.

The survey also highlighted an alarming lack of awareness about practice when quarantining incoming stock, with 32% not drenching and therefore increasing the spread of resistance.   “Quarantine is another very important time where farmers need to take professional advice,” concludes Fiona Anderson.  “Only by dosing correctly with a suitable active such as the orange drench class, can farmers prevent importing other farms’ resistance problems and reduce the risk to next year’s lambs on contaminated pastures”.

3rd June 2013

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