Nematodirus forecasting tool proving invaluable.

27th March 2020

The risk of nematodirus is likely to be extremely variable this season across the country and the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) nematodirus forecasting tool is proving to be an invaluable method of checking the risk to lambs this spring. 

The Nematodirus alert map went live on the SCOPS website on Monday 2nd March, showing when hatching of nematodirus eggs is predicted based on local weather conditions. The exact date of hatching can be influenced by variation in microclimate, and early cases are also possible from overwintered larvae. A link on the forecast also gives access to an archive section so vets, advisers and farmers can consult previous forecasts see when the risk levels changed in their area.

“When deciding whether or not to act, sheep farmers must also take into account variation from field to field and farm to farm". says Dr Hannah Vineer, of Liverpool University, who was instrumental in developing the forecast. “It is important to assess the risk to each group of lambs based on the history of the field and it’s aspect and altitude. South facing fields tend to have an earlier hatch and every 100m increase in altitude will delay hatching by about 7 days (for example if the nearest station is at 200m a.s.l (above sea level) and the farm is at 100m above sea level, hatching could be around 7 days earlier than our forecast”.

 “Moving lambs to lower risk grazing that was not grazed by lambs last spring will help to avoid a high challenge" adds Dr Vineer. "However, nematodirus eggs were commonly seen in faecal samples from sheep of all ages throughout 2019 which means that even land grazed by older sheep could be contaminated. Although faecal egg counts cannot be used to decide when to treat young lambs for nematodirus, as the damage is done by larvae that don’t produce eggs, regularly monitoring and recording faecal egg counts can help track which fields provide the safest grazing for lambs come spring.” It is also important to monitor for signs of diarrhoea and ill thrift and don’t exclude nematodirus as a cause of disease in lambs even if your regional hatching risk is not yet high.
Sheep farmers having had cases of nematodirus confirmed on their farm are requested to help inform the forecasting tool themselves by logging their cases on the website using the first half of their postcode.

The nematodirus forecast map/tool will be available from Monday 2nd March on the SCOPS website here.

The forecast maps are updated daily, using data from 140 weather stations (provided by the Met Office and DarkSky), tracking changes in risk throughout the spring and early summer. The interactive Google map, allows farmers and advisers to select the nearest or most representative weather station and it then provides advice on how to relate the predicted risk to their particular farm, treatment options and possible management actions. Sheep farmers should consult their vet or adviser with regard to local risks and treat lambs if they are deemed to be at risk.