Vets warn farmers to be on lookout for killer worms in lambs

Borders sheep farmers are being warned after vets at St Boswells’ SRUC investigation centre discovered a fatal infection from gut worms killed the lamb sent for a post mortem this week.

Heather Stevenson, sheep vet with SAC Consulting, Veterinary Services, part of SRUC, said: “The (Nematodirus battus) worms, which live in the intestines, cause a severe watery “scour” which can result in rapid death.

“As these parasites are capable of killing lambs before eggs appear in the dung any unexplained deaths should be investigated, for example by sending carcases to SAC Consulting, Disease Surveillance Centres for post mortem examination.”

College experts went on to say Nematodirus battus worms are a problem in the spring particularly in years where a cold period is followed by a warm spell.

The newly discovered case reflects the recent rise in spring temperatures which has triggered hatching of eggs in some areas.

After hatching the worms are eaten along with grass and pose a threat to lambs from 6 to 12 weeks old. Outbreaks of disease are most common on fields grazed by young lambs every year in the spring.

Those particularly at risk are lambs born in February or March and grazing permanent and heavily stocked pastures.

Farmers are being urged to take appropriate action to prevent disease outbreaks as soon as possible and investigate cases of severe diarrhoea in lambs with the help of their own vets or experts from SAC Consulting.

The SRUC vets also warned farmers to be on the lookout for coccidiosis also in lambs of this age group.