The problem all Ontario sheep producers are facing

What did we do when we found resistant worms?

  • We were part of a University of Guelph study about anthelmintic resistance which revealed that we had the problem of resistant parasites.
  • In consultation with the researchers we started to select and breed our sheep for resistance to parasites.
  • We applied for Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding to collaborate on this project to build on the resistance we could already see in our flock.
  • The Guelph study had also shown that levamisole was still effective so this was used for the project purposes plus for any spot deworming necessary.

What did we do in this project?

  • We developed a protocol in consultation with researchers in this field.
  • We took fecal samples systematically from yearling ewes and rams under 18 months of age.
  • We had these all tested at the Animal Health Lab at the University of Guelph.
  • We selected all our rams for production with the additional filter added of animals that indicated increased resistance to the effect of internal parasites.

what did it cost?

  • The current cost per Fecal test is $ 21. The average yearly amount of tests that we have done to date, has a total cost $ 3,200.00 per year.
  • It is worth noting that the costs are higher to keep and feed the larger number of rams that we needed to test to eliminate inbreeding with the seven families we maintain.
  • A portion of the rams were selected as breeding stock, with the balance being sold for meat at the end of the testing. These animals would otherwise have been sold as lambs the previous year at a much better price.

What was the value of the results?

  • We see the value in not having to purchase and administer as much dewormer now and possibly even less in the future as the percentage of parasite resistant animals in our flock increases.
  • We eliminated the death loses due to parasites that are troubling some flocks.
  • The ewes are in better condition, breed back more quickly, are better milker’s, and have lower death loss. Plus there are lower costs due to less dewormer used.
  • Overall , there was less stress on the ewe flock due to less parasite pressure.
  • In 2016, the parasite resistance program showed that ewes with low fecal egg counts (FEC) weaned 7.6 kg. or 17lb. of lamb more per ewe per year compared with ewes that have high fecal egg counts.

What’s next?

  • We intend to carry on with this process to keep improving the rate of resistance.
  • Our plan is to share the protocol developed for this project with other Ontario producers so they can do the same.
  • We plan to continue to have rams for sale that have shown the tendency for parasite resistance.
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