The dos and the don’ts of taking dung samples

Dung sampling can be used as an effective tool in the fight against disease on cattle farms. It provides an indication of the various parasites that may be present. It can also be used to test the effectiveness of the dosing programme implemented.

Over recent years, the control of parasites – such as gutworms, lungworm, rumen fluke and liver fluke – has been made more convenient and more competitively priced. However, this has led to overdosing and the rise of parasitic resistance.

Dung sampling will detect gutworm eggs, lungworm larvae, liver and rumen fluke eggs, cryptosporidia and coccidia oocytes.

Speaking at a recent Teagasc, Kepak and Animal Health Ireland (AHI) beef event in Co. Westmeath, Teagasc’s Paul Gibney outlined how useful dung sampling can be and how it will benefit the farmer in terms of parasite control.

This is something that a lot of farmers wouldn’t generally be used to doing. It may be on the expensive side, but you are taking a batch sample and not a sample on a per head basis.

“There is no way your going to fully know the status of the herd without carrying out a faecal sampling,” he explained.

He continued: “If you don’t know the medical history of bought-in animals, I would recommend that you keep them separate from your herd – if possible – prior to dung sampling. If you can, you should graze them in one particular group.”

Paul also stressed that samples must be collected from fresh and different dung patches in order to obtain an accurate result. Gloves should also be worn. Faecal sampling costs approximately €28 for two samples.

How to collect faecal matter:
  • Collect samples in the morning after a period of rest;
  • As calves are quietly disturbed, they should defecate in one spot;
  • Worms are not evenly distributed. Faeces should be collected from three different areas;
  • 10 different samples from at least 10 different animals should be taken;
  • Dung should be placed in sample pots and placed in sealed, airtight zip bags;
  • Fill in the required information on slip;
  • Post to the lab within 24 hours of collection;
  • Do not place samples in fridge,
  • Do not freeze;
  • Do not place in direct sunlight.

Results are measured on the number of eggs present in one gram of faecal matter. If the results indicate 200 or more eggs per gram of faeces, there is an issue on the farm and these animals should be dosed accordingly.

However, where results indicate 100 eggs per gram of faeces, the count is too low and these animals should not be dosed.

When the results come back and a dose is needed, these should be dosed correctly based on their body weight.

“A follow on faecal test can be carried out 14 days after to see if the product is having the desired effect,” Paul explained.

“Dung doesn’t have to have a scour texture. It could look solid and normal and it could still have a high egg count in it,” he concluded.