Control of Nematodirus spp. infection by sheep flock owners in Northern Ireland

Background To address a lack of information on the control of ovine helminth parasites in Northern Ireland (NI), a number of research projects have been undertaken, dealing with gastrointestinal nematodes, tapeworms and liver fluke. This investigation concerns Nematodirus and concentrates on three aspects of disease: farm management strategies for its control, derived from the results of a Questionnaire; the efficacy of treatment used by farmers, as determined by a coprological survey; and the hatching requirements of Nematodirus eggs, that is, whether prolonged chilling is a pre-requisite for hatching. Results A Questionnaire was sent to 252 sheep farmers in NI in March 2012 (covering the years 2009–2012) and replies were received from 228 farmers. Under-dosing, inaccurate calibration of equipment and inappropriate product choice were poor practices identified. Following this survey, the efficacy of treatment of Nematodirus spp. in sheep flocks was evaluated in April and May 2012. Sampling kits were sent to 51 flock owners, all of whom returned pre- and post-anthelmintic dosing faecal samples to the laboratory for analysis. At the time of treatment, 41 flocks were positive for Nematodirus (as diagnosed by the presence of eggs). Reduced benzimidazole efficacy was detected in 35.7% of flocks tested (n = 28). Although only involving a small number of flocks, reduced efficacy of levamisole treatment was detected in 50%, of avermectins in 33% and of moxidectin in 75% of flocks tested (n = 2, 6 and 4, respectively). In the egg hatch experiment, carried out under “chilled” and “non-chilled” conditions, 43% of the eggs in the “non-chilled” group were able to hatch, compared to 100% in the “chilled” group. Conclusions The identification of inefficient control strategies argues for continued education of stockholders, in order to improve their management programmes. This is particularly important where the practices might impact on the development of anthelmintic resistance, which has been shown to exist on NI farms. The appropriate choice of anthelmintic is a vital part of this plan. The ability of eggs to hatch under non-chilled conditions demonstrates a flexibility in hatching behaviour. This may represent an adaptation to climate change and account for the recent emergence of a second, autumnal peak of infection.
Publication history: Accepted - 10 October 2017; Published online - 19 October 2017.
Nematodirus spp., Survey, Questionnaire, Northern Ireland, Faecal egg count reduction test, Egg hatch behaviour
McMahon, C., Edgar, H. W. J., Barley, J. P., Hanna, R. E. B., Brennan, G. P. and Fairweather, I. (2017) ‘Control of Nematodirus spp. infection by sheep flock owners in Northern Ireland’, Irish Veterinary Journal, 70(1). doi: 10.1186/s13620-017-0109-6.