An EASTBIO Doctoral Training Partnership PhD studentship has been awarded to Moredun to investigate ways to optimise parasite control in hill and upland sheep.
The four-year studentship, which has been awarded to Eilidh Geddes, is entitled “A holistic approach to internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms”, and will be supervised by researchers from Moredun Research Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies.
In Scotland, there are approximately 15,000 hill and upland farms with sheep, representing around 60% of the whole sector. Despite these numbers, sheep production on these farms is becoming increasingly demanding for a number of reasons, including parasite infections. The main parasites that affect grazing sheep and lambs are roundworms and liver fluke, which are usually controlled by the use of chemical wormers known as anthelmintics. However, both of these parasites have developed resistance to these drugs, threatening the ability of farmers to sustainably control these infections on their farm.
The aim of the project is to identify the scale of anthelmintic-related issues faced by hill and upland sheep farmers by gathering questionnaire information from both farmers and veterinary practices. In parallel, focus farms will be identified, their parasite challenge assessed and their approach to internal parasite control monitored over a full production year. After initial data collection and analysis, customised options for parasite control will be proposed, implemented and monitored on the focus farms over the next production year. Once implemented, economic and performance data will be collected to analyse the impact of improved disease control at farm level. This will allow the development of practical recommendations on how to optimise internal parasite control on hill and upland sheep farms.
Dr Fiona Kenyon, Principal Investigator at the Moredun Research Institute and Project Leader commented:
“We are delighted that we were successful with our funding application, and have recruited an excellent student in Eilidh. Eilidh’s project will focus on parasite control in the often neglected upland and hill farms. We hope to deliver optimised parasite control for our focus farmers, while collecting data from these farms which will be highly relevant for many upland/hill sheep farmers across the UK.”
While Eilidh Geddes, PhD student, says:
“I am really looking forward to getting started with this project. I hope it can provide a practical and sustainable approach to parasite control for hill and upland flocks for the focus farms, and to inform the scale of resistance to treatments faced in these areas.”
The project will be looking to recruit farmers to the project over the next 6 months. Moredun are looking for farmers and vet practices, in hill and upland areas, who would be willing to complete a short questionnaire. Moredun would also like to identify about 10 focus farmers willing to take part by sharing faecal samples from their animals and information about their farms. Focus farmers will gain information on the parasites present on their farm, the anthelmintic resistance status of their flock and advice on how best to treat their flock in the future.