The June-to-August period is important for over 50% of tasks in the sheep welfare scheme (SWS), with all of these related to animal health either directly or indirectly.

While there is likely to be a low number of farmers participating in these measures, the requirements are beneficial outside of fulfilling scheme requirements and many of these provide a good blueprint for best-practice health routines.

Flystrike control

The flystrike control measure is based on providing optimum protection against blowfly strike.

Control is underpinned by mechanical measures such as dagging, crutching and shearing combined with strategic chemical control.

Sheep should be visually assessed twice during the period 1 June to 30 September and an assessment of cleanliness and dag score must be carried out on a scale of zero (clean/no dags) to five (chronically dirty). The number of sheep with a dag score of one or greater and those dagged must be recorded while products purchased must be recorded and receipts retained.

The method of application will have a big bearing on the efficacy and length of protection achieved from chemical control.

Most farmers are aware that product should not be applied if it will come into contact with rain post-application

For example, where applying a pour-on, it is important to note that some products provide protection only to the part of the fleece where product has been applied. As such, it is important to ensure the three high-risk areas across the rump, back and shoulder region are adequately covered.

The level of cover will be reduced where product is applied to soiled areas and, as such, it is advisable to dag dirty tail ends in advance of applying product.

Most farmers are aware that product should not be applied if it will come into contact with rain post-application.

Product should also not be applied outdoors in direct sunlight during high-temperature periods as it can lead to evaporation before it has had a chance to bind with the fleece.

Lameness control

Lameness control is a measure for lowland flocks under SWS.

It aims to establish the level of lameness which should be the starting point for all flocks when putting a programme in place to curb its incidence.

The SWS requires a flock to be assessed at five stages – during May/June; July/August; prior to mating (August to September/October); at least once between mating and lambing; and finally at any other time that the flock owner sees as delivering the best benefit.

The failure of many disease control programmes is products being used that are not suitable for the disease causing the lameness

Like with flystrike, the number of sheep receiving treatment must be recorded along with details of products used or any other preventative measures implemented. The success of any good lameness control programme is also based on identifying the cause of lameness and high-risk periods. The failure of many disease control programmes is products being used that are not suitable for the disease causing the lameness. This is especially the case for contagious ovine digital dermatitis (CODD), with prescribed antibiotic treatment necessary.

Parasite control

While this measure covers both hill and lowland flocks, it differs slightly across each.

Lowland flocks are required to complete a minimum of two faecal egg counts and these must be carried out during the period from 1 June to 30 September to establish the worm burden and ascertain the need for treatment.

For hill flocks, the requirement is to carry out one faecal egg count post-weaning to identify the need for treatment of worms.

Laboratory results, receipts for the purchase of anthelmintics and records in the scheme action book will be used to police this.

Details of approved laboratories for faecal egg counts under SWS can be found online by scanning the QR code with your smartphone.

Farmers must take the initiative and order the sampling kit and carry out the testing.

The recommended protocol for collecting samples is to leave 15 to 20 lambs in a clean pen for a couple of hours or for as long as a number of faecal deposits have been observed.

Samples should be collected from at least 10 different faecal deposits and placed in the 10 separate containers provided by the lab. These should be placed in a ziplock bag and submitted along with an SWS submission form on the day of sampling or the next day at the latest.

Samples collected on a Friday or over the weekend which are to be posted should be stored in a fridge (not a freezer) not used for domestic purposes and posted the following Monday. Lambs should then be dosed on the basis of the worm count.

The practice should not be confused with a faecal egg count reduction test

A faecal egg count reading of zero to 250 eggs per gram (epg) is viewed as low, with 250epg to 750epg medium and in excess of 750epg high. A strongyle egg count of 500epg to 600epg is generally the threshold used to warrant treatment.

The practice should not be confused with a faecal egg count reduction test whereby a faecal egg sample is collected as described above (with lambs marked for subsequent identification), lambs are treated and a repeat egg count is completed five to seven days later where a levamisole has been used, 10 to 14 for benzimidazoles and 14 to 16 days for macrocyclic lactones.

Mineral supplementation of lambs

This task involves mineral supplementation of lambs in hill flocks pre-weaning. There is no definitive supplementary period listed, with the terms and conditions recommending supplementation during the main grazing season pre-weaning.

The Department of Agriculture advises this is the four-to-six week period prior to weaning. Where there is a significant spread in lambing dates then a split programme can be implemented.

Supplementation can take the form of drenches or liquid minerals, boluses or injectables with the manufacturer’s guidelines determining the frequency of use. Minerals can only be purchased from business operators licensed by the Department of Agriculture.