Creating a balance between parasite control and a healthy environment

Published: 17 February 2023

The first of this year’s National Sheep Association (NSA) and Moredun webinars attracted an engaged audience this week discussing the potential for the sheep industry to balance effective parasite control with environmental impact.

Awareness of environmental impact is growing in the sheep industry and the numbers registered for this webinar reflected that. 

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The two speakers, Dr Philip Skuce, Moredun Research Institute and Lesley Stubbings, well known independent Sheep Consultant and member of SCOPS formed an ideal partnership, with Philip setting the policy and research scene and Lesley sharing some excellent practical points for maintaining sustainable parasite control in flocks, while minimising environmental impact.

“Not only is good performance key to profitable sheep production, but also in minimising our environmental impact. The important message from this webinar is that we can maintain and, in many cases, improve animal performance by following sustainable practices that reduce our reliance on parasiticides.”

Ms Stubbings, Sheep Consultant and member of SCOPS

Using data as evidence, the speakers were able to show a balance is achievable with reduced use of parasiticide, without compromising lamb growth. This evidence is central to both slowing the development of anthelmintic resistance and the impact of these medicines on the environment, while improving animal health and maintaining performance is vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

With almost 50% of the audience being farmers, the webinar demonstrated a clear understanding of the impacts and interest in improving worming practices in the farming community.

“It was very encouraging to see the results of the online polls throughout the webinar, with farmers already adopting the ‘as little as possible, but as much as necessary’ approach, together with other non-chemical methods”.

Dr Philip Skuce, Moredun Research Institute 

Another poll taken during the session suggested the top three options for achieving sustainable parasite control in sheep were grazing management, testing and monitoring and targeting animals. Most people felt the industry was very reliant on parasiticides in sheep but a unanimous vote showed there is huge scope to reduce chemical use while maintaining (or even improving) animal health and performance.

“With the launch of the DEFRA Animal Health and Welfare Pathway that includes a compulsory worming treatment check within six months of applying, it shows policy makers are also keen to tackle anthelmintic resistance and the challenges it brings to the UK sheep sector. It’s increasingly important that responsibility in anthelmintic use is taken to the highest level, with other strategies employed such as genetic selection and grazing management used alongside strategic worming.”

Phil Stocker, NSA Chief Executive

NSA and Moredun now look forward to continuing its joint series of webinars this year with a future session set to take place this April. 

The recording of the February webinar is available to watch here (YouTube). 

To register for the next webinar on sheep scab control, please register here.



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