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Worming ewes around lambing remains a common practice in UK flocks, but whole flock treatments are costly, time consuming and add to the speed with which worms develop resistance to wormers.

To address this issue, and help sheep farmers decide which ewes to treat, the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group, an industry body providing best practice advice, has issued a five-question checklist to help farmers understand the background to worming at lambing, and apply it to their individual flocks.

1. Why do we treat ewes? The rationale behind treating ewes is that it reduces the number of worm eggs a ewe puts onto pasture when her immune system relaxes around lambing. Along with larvae that have overwintered, this will be the source of the worms that will challenge lambs later in the season. So, if we can differentiate between the ewes that put out the most eggs from those that shed the least, we can treat selectively.

2. Which ewes do we need to treat? The ewes that produce most eggs are generally the ones under the most pressure in late pregnancy. This includes ewes in lower body condition, younger ewes and triplet bearing ewes. These are the priority to be wormed around lambing.

3. What is the minimum proportion of ewes I should leave untreated? To reduce the risk of selecting heavily for resistance in the worms, it is generally recommended you leave 10-20% of your ewes untreated. This means 10-20% in each grazing group, not just across the flock. However, producers that have been monitoring faecal egg counts are finding a much higher proportion can be left untreated if ewes are fit and healthy, without any detriment to lamb performance.

4. What evidence is there to support this advice? Independent UK research carried out in 2018 by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), found no advantage in blanket worming ewes at lambing. Faecal egg counts from lambs reared on ewes that were wormed with either a short or long acting (persistent) wormer were not lower than faecal egg counts taken from lambs reared on ewes not treated with a wormer.

5. Why not just use a persistent worming product? Tempting though it may be, sheep farmers routinely using persistent products year-on-year in their ewes risk developing resistance to the clear (3-ML) group of wormers. To avoid this, these products need to be used carefully and the following points understood

It is doubly important you leave 10-20% of the ewes untreated if you use a persistent wormer. The length of time the wormer persists is not the same across all worm species.

Treating ewes will not have any effect on whether or not your lambs are at risk from nematodirus.

Do not use in ewes year-after-year and certainly not if ewes are going into the same fields as last year, or are being turned out onto low-risk pasture.

Selection for resistance is a risk because suckling lambs are exposed to a low dose of the wormer via the ewes’ milk.

For further information and advice, please speak to your vet or call our sheep team on 01769 610000


Guto and Jenny have concluded a very successful series of workshops on Lambing Skills.

Delegates on the first meeting on Saturday 2nd Feb had to brave arctic conditions in the South Molton branch lambing pens.

The fact that the cadaver lambs were barely defrosted didn’t help much either! A hot cuppa and a biscuit revived us all a bit before plunging back in.

The meetings were highly practical, and covered:

• How to recognise when a ewe needs assistance

• How to identify the position of lamb(s) inside the ewe (eyeballs in your fingertips)

• How to untangle lambs

• Reviving lambs (sadly, we were unable to bring any back from the dead)

• Tubing lambs and colostrum best practice

• How to fit a prolapse harness

• Care of the ewe and lamb after lambing

• Treating entropion (turned in eyelids)

The meetings proved so popular that two further course dates were added and Jenny also gave a “greatest hits” version to the North Molton Young Farmers’ Club.

If you missed out this time, look out for our lambing courses again early in 2020.


In many respects the bull is the most important animal on the farm, being responsible for 50% of the genetic make up of each calf crop.

What you may not realise is that current estimates suggest approximately one third of bulls are either sub-fertile or infertile; considerably lengthening the time it takes for a cow to get in calf, if at all.

What makes a bull sub-fertile?

Immaturity, poor body condition and lameness are all reasons for sub-fertility that can be addressed, resulting in a useful breeding animal for the future. Persistent infection with BVD, penile damage or abnormality and inadequate testicular size are reasons for immediate failure.

Action you can take:

A breeding soundness assessment two months before the breeding season will help you to minimise the risk of bull infertility and allow for appropriate corrective action to be taken in time.

A breeding soundness examination includes:

• A review of the health status and previous breeding performance of the bull, giving an indication of the animal’s capabilities for breeding

• A physical examination including the animal’s size, body condition, legs, feet, eyes, teeth, heart and lungs

• An examination of the penis and testicles, including scrotal circumference measurement which is a good indicator of sperm output

• Semen collection and microscopic examination. An assessment of sample volume and density is made before viewing sperm motility and the number of abnormal or damaged sperm under a microscope.

• Libido and serving assessment – watching the bull when he is working will give an assessment of how keen he is and his ability to serve cows.

If you would like further information or to book a breeding soundness assessment, please speak to your vet.


We recently welcomed Miriam Rigby to the Torch Farm team.

Miriam graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2017 and joined us after completing a farm animal internship in Cornwall. Her main interests are in fertility and infectious diseases.

In her spare time she can be found playing tennis, coastal walking or learning to glide.

As our newsletter goes to print, two teams of intrepid adventurers from the Torch Farm stable are heading to Exmoor to complete the Exmoor Star Trek Challenge.

As farm vets, traversing the wilds of Exmoor by starlight should be something they are relatively used to but we wish them the very best of luck for an enjoyable (and hopefully dry) Saturday night out with a difference, in aid of the North Devon Hospice.

If you would like to donate to this worthy cause, you can find the details at :




A DIY AI course with a focus on practical tuition to give you a thorough understanding of anatomy and managing the AI process.

Working on farm, you will have the opportunity to practice on live cows and the course will include:

• Anatomy of the cow reproductive system

• Review of cow oestrus cycle

• Semen handling

• Welfare and legislation

We are able to off er 50% funding for beef farmers who meet the below criteria:

• At least 30 breeding females,

• Either own or work full-time on the farm

• The farm must be registered in England.

Weds 27 – Fri 29 March at Torch Farm Vets, South Molton, EX36 4EJ plus two days on farm.

There are only 10 funded places in the south west so first come first served.

To book your place please call 01769 610000 or email sophiaelworthy@torchfarmvets.com


Safe and responsible use of medicines – as recommended by Red Tractor

This workshop aims to increase your knowledge of safety and good practice as well as outlining the legislative requirements for on farm medicines use.

The course also aims to increase trainees’ understanding about the different types of medicines used and how these relate to the common diseases relevant to their farms.

Learning outcomes include:

• How to safely administer veterinary medicines to animals under your care

• Where to store and maintain medicines on farm in accordance with legislation and farm assurance requirements.

The cost is £50 per farm, with discounts available for additional attendees.

• Mon 11 March at Charter Veterinary Hospital, Roundswell, Barnstaple EX31 3FG

To book your place please call your usual practice or email info@torchfarmvets.com