New wormer groups need to be integrated into on-farm control programmes to reduce the risk of further resistance in the UK.

That was the timely warning from sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings, speaking after the recent publication of the first case of resistance to monepantel (trade name Zolvix).

Speaking on behalf of the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) she said: “We welcome this report because it not only highlights the need for sheep farmers to follow best practice advice, it also reveals the dangers of not integrating the newer wormer groups into on-farm control programmes before the other groups fail.

“It is SCOPS’ understanding that the farm concerned had a history of triple resistance to the 1-BZ (white), 2-LV (yellow) and 3-ML (clear) groups of anthelmintics, which meant they were relying almost exclusively on the newer monepantel wormer, the 4-AD (orange) group, for worm control.

"Coupled with animals being moved to low challenge pasture following treatment, which is highly selective for resistance, there was the risk of a ‘perfect storm’ in terms of the development of resistance. Other sheep farmers can avoid this situation by following SCOPS guidelines on the use of the 4-AD and 5-SI (purple) wormers,” added Ms Stubbings.

SCOPS has been advising that the group 4-AD and 5-SI wormers should be carefully incorporated into control programmes on sheep farms for the last eight years (when Zolvix was launched) as a quarantine drench and a mid/late season treatment for lambs. That advice was given in order to avoid this sort of situation where the other three groups are no longer effective and the group 4AD is relied upon.

SCOPS advice

On orange and purple wormers:

The two newest wormer groups (4-AD and 5-SI) should be incorporated into worm control programmes on all sheep farms, and not left ‘on the shelf’ until the others are no longer effective. Their real value is in prolonging the life of 1-BZ, 2-LV and 3-ML groups.

There are only two occasions when a group 4-AD or 5-SI should be used and farmers should alternate between the two groups. The two occasions are quarantine, and mid/late season as a ‘one off’ annual drench for lambs.

Groups 4-AD and 5-SI should only be used at other times under veterinary direction and then only if the full anthelmintic resistance status of the farm is known.

Effectiveness of products used should be monitored carefully.

Best practice

When using any wormer, regardless of the group, best practice guidelines should always be followed:

Ensure the correct dose rate (by weighing animals and treating to the heaviest in a group), calibrate the gun and administer correctly, over the back of the tongue.

If moving to low challenge pasture after treatment, sheep must either be left on the dirty pasture for four to five days before moving, or at least 10% of the animals left untreated.

Check the efficacy of wormer treatments on a regular basis.