Faecal Worm Counts

by Handy Mag

Equine health and environmental benefits

By Morag Molyneux, BVMS, MRCVS, Station House Vets

It is so lovely to see the horses out without their rugs in lush green fields but how can we make the most out of our grazing and manage worries about worms?

We all know that regular poo picking is the cornerstone of good pasture management. Avoiding overgrazing and resting fields not only breaks up the worm life cycle but is also beneficial for soil health.

Ideal grazing is a mixture of grasses which encourages natural foraging. Too much rich pasture can cause loose droppings or colic and is a high risk for laminitis. A good way to reduce this risk is track grazing, fencing off a strip around the border of the field.

Consider planting wildflowers in areas that are not being grazed as this will increase biodiversity and support bee populations. Trees and hedgerows are also incredibly important providing habitats for wildlife and improving drainage. Try to minimise the use of fertiliser using targeted spot spraying for weeds and poisonous plants and time application to avoid run off into watercourses.

As we are well into the grazing season, now is the time to collect poo samples for summer worm egg counts to detect eggs produced from roundworms including small redworm, large redworm and ascarids. Testing reduces the need for blanket treatment, which has a positive environmental impact, reducing drug residues in the ecosystem as well as reducing costs of treatment and limiting resistance to anthelmintic drugs.

When to test?

Regular testing every 3 months throughout the grazing season (March – October) plus a tapeworm saliva test in October/November.

How to test?

A small amount (approx 40g) of fresh faeces should be collected from a mixture of faecal balls

Treatment is recommended for worm egg counts above 250 eggs per gram.

Choosing the active ingredient of wormer is important and that’s where the advice we give as part of our Worming Plans is essential.

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