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Body condition score as a selection tool for targeted selective treatment-based nematode control strategies in Merino ewes

Cornelius, M.P., Jacobson, C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9427-1941 and Besier, R.B. (2014) Body condition score as a selection tool for targeted selective treatment-based nematode control strategies in Merino ewes. Veterinary Parasitology, 206 (3-4). pp. 173-181.

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Sheep nematode control utilising refugia-based strategies have been shown to delay anthelmintic resistance, but the optimal indices to select individuals to be left untreated under extensive sheep grazing conditions are not clear. This experiment tested the hypothesis that high body condition can indicate ability of mature sheep to better cope with worms and therefore remain untreated in a targeted treatment programme. Adult Merino ewes from flocks on two private farms located in south-west Western Australia (Farm A, n = 271, and Farm B, n = 258) were measured for body condition score (BCS), body weight and worm egg counts (WEC) on four occasions between May and December (pre-lambing, lamb marking, lamb weaning and post-weaning). Half of the ewes in each flock received anthelmintic treatments to suppress WEC over the experimental period and half remained untreated (unless critical limits were reached). Response to treatment was analysed in terms of BCS change and percentage live weight change. No effect of high or low initial WEC groups was shown for BCS response, and liveweight responses were inconsistent. A relatively greater BCS response to treatment was observed in ewes in low BCS pre-lambing compared to better-conditioned ewes on one farm where nutrition was sub-optimal and worm burdens were high. Sheep in low body condition pre-lambing were more than three times more likely to fall into a critically low BCS (<2.0) if left untreated. Recommendations can be made to treat ewes in lower BCS and leave a proportion of the higher body condition sheep untreated in a targeted selective treatment programme, to provide a population of non-resistant worms to delay the development of resistance.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
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