SCOPS nematodirus warning for sheep farmers as spring temperatures (finally) start to rise

13th April 2018

Sheep farmers must be on their guard against nematodirus now that a sudden increase in temperatures has been forecast, warns the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group.

The SCOPS Nematodirus Forecast map at www.scops.org.uk/nematodirus (pictured) shows South and East England, plus most other lower lying areas of England, are at moderate risk – which means they are within 10 days of a hatch.

Lesley Stubbings of SCOPS explains: “The rapid change from the relatively cold weather of March and early April to the forecast for the second half of April means a mass hatch of over-wintered Nematodirus larvae is highly likely in some areas. This poses a serious danger to February and March-born lambs grazing fields that carried lambs last spring.

“With such a challenging season to date, we are urging sheep farmers to check their nearest weather station on the website and assess the risk to their lambs, because reports of early cases highlight the variation in hatch date from farm to farm.”

The SCOPS Nematodirus Forecast provides an interactive map that is updated daily using data from 140 weather stations, tracking changes in risk throughout the spring and early summer. This map allows farmers and advisers to select their nearest or most representative weather station and then access advice on how to relate the predicted risk to a particular farm. Treatment options and possible management actions are also provided, which sheep farmers should use in consultation with their vet or adviser to consider the local risk and when/if to treat lambs.

Dr Hannah Vineer, who was instrumental in developing the online forecast, gives further advice. She says: “In deciding whether or not they need to act, farmers need to take into account that there will be variation from farm to farm and even field to field. Not only should they assess the risk to a group of lambs based on the history of the field but also its aspect and altitude. South-facing fields tend to have an earlier hatch and, as a guide, every 100m increase in altitude will delay hatching by about seven days. So, for example, if the nearest weather station on the interactive map is at 200m above sea level and the farm is 100m above sea level, hatching could be around seven days earlier than our forecast.”

Professor Eric Morgan, a colleague of Dr Vineer’s at Bristol University, agrees. He says: “As soon as a local weather station displays amber, farmers should follow the instructions provided to decide what this means for their particular farm and prepare to take action.”

Practicing vet Harriet Fuller has seen the first signs that Nematodirus are active in her area of Herefordshire. She says: “I have seen evidence of infection on several farms this week and I would urge sheep farmers to keep a close eye on the forecast for their area and talk to their vet for advice on the local situation.”

Notes to editors: -

  • The SCOPS Nematodirus Forecast uses data from 140 weather stations, provided by the Met Office and DarkSky.
  • This press release is issued by National Sheep Association (NSA) on behalf of SCOPS. For more information contact Joanne Briggs, NSA Communications Manager, on 07908 604744 or joanne@nationalsheep.org.uk.
  • SCOPS is funded by AgriSearch, AHDB Beef & Lamb, Animal Health Distributors Association (AHDA), Animal Medicines Training Regulatory Authority (AMTRA), Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Office of Animal Health (NOAH), National Sheep Association (NSA) and Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). These bodies are joined by a number of experts in parasitology and sheep health to form the SCOPS Steering Group. A full list is available at www.scops.org.uk.