Sheep ecto-parasite control – understanding best practice

Ectoflits OP sheep dip manufacturer, Bimeda, is calling for farmers to start planning their approach for the control of sheep ecto-parasites this autumn and winter.

One of Bimeda’s professional services veterinarians, Rachel Mallet, commented: “At this time of year, appropriate and proactive control of ecto-parasites should be on the agenda for all sheep farmers.

“We are encouraging farmers who have moved away from plunge dipping with an OP dip in previous years to reconsider this option for the control and treatment of external parasites where appropriate.

“In the past decade or so, farmers have moved towards 3ML injections (ivermectin, doramectin and moxidectin) for the control of internal and external parasites, due to their undeniable convenience.

“However, recent reports of resistance of sheep scab to this class of wormers, allied to the large numbers of resistant internal worms already, means that we have to think carefully about how to use sheep scab treatments in a responsible and targeted manner.”

Rachel commented further on the benefits of dipping with an OP dip, noting: “OP plunge dipping with a dip such as Ectoflits gives immediate ecto-parasite control and, in fact, dipping with Ectoflits is the ideal broad-spectrum method of parasite control for sheep.”

This single treatment offers control and treatment of:
  • Scab;
  • Keds;
  • Lice;
  • Blowfly.

However, despite the efficacy of dip, some farmers have reservations, which are largely based around the fact that plunge dipping can be labour intensive work, which requires the use of a dipping tank and protective clothing.

The Bimeda team is keen to point out that this no longer needs to be a barrier to getting sheep plunge dipped, as in recent years a number of contract mobile plunge dippers have emerged within Ireland.

These dippers travel from farm-to-farm, using their mobile plunge dipping units to dip sheep. This removes the major barriers to dipping and makes this best practice method of ecto-parasite control both convenient and affordable.

For farmers who are interested in working with a local contract plunge dipper, but are unsure how to locate one, the website sheepdippers.ie lists some of the mobile plunge dippers who carry out this work.

Bimeda can also be called on Lo Call: 1850-515253 for further information. Alternatively, contact Bimeda Ireland general manager, Andrew Glynn, on: 087-2525110.

With specific reference to sheep scab, dipping is an excellent option for the control of this notifiable disease. Critically, the scab mite can survive 17 days off fleece; for example, in loose wool caught in fences in fields.

Dipping is able to kill the scab mites on the sheep as well as protecting the sheep from re-infestation for this critical 17-day period, which the mites can survive in the environment. Ectoflits OP dip also offers great value, with a 3L container sufficient to treat 500 sheep.

Many key opinion leaders are currently actively promoting OP plunge dipping as best practice.

At a recent series of events in the UK focused on the best practice for the control of ecto-parasites – including scab – leading voices in the field of sheep parasite control all spoke in favour of plunge dipping. This message was reinforced by Teagasc at the Sheep 2018 Event in Athenry this summer.

Of course, no treatment method can, or should, ever seek to replace prevention, and Bimeda is a strong advocate of ensuring that good biosecurity measures are in place to reduce the likelihood of outbreaks of ecto-parasites.

Scab, in particular, can be difficult to prevent, as in the early, sub-clinical stages of disease – even though sheep are infected – there may be no visible clinical signs.

This means that animals which appear perfectly healthy, with no skin lesions, bald patches or pulled wool, can in fact be carrying scab mites.

This is why sheep scab can be so easily introduced into the flock when buying animals in, and adequate quarantine procedures are vital.

New sheep should be kept separate from the flock, at the periphery of the farm, with bio-secure double fencing. During this quarantine period, animals can either be tested (the new sheep scab blood ELISA test) or a quarantine treatment can be used.

To learn more about sheep ecto-parasite control and best practice for its control and treatment, as well as to locate your nearest contract mobile plunge dipper, visit sheepdippers.ie or call Bimeda on: 1850-515253.