Parasitologists at Moredun have developed a farmer-facing, free, online tool which helps with the interpretation of faecal egg count results for roundworms in sheep called ‘FEC Check’ with the aid of SEFARI Gateway Innovative Knowledge Exchange (IKE) funding.
Roundworms are an ongoing challenge for sheep farmers in Scotland. Whilst acute infection can be fatal, most roundworm infections result in poor growth rates and reduced production efficiency. To meet upcoming environmental targets, roundworm infections must be controlled effectively and sustainably.
Faecal egg counts can be used to target anthelmintic usage: monitor whether animals require treatment, when to administer it and to check whether the treatment was effective. Such targeted approaches can reduce chemical usage, potentially slowing the development of anthelmintic resistance and providing additional environmental and economic benefits.
Although the test itself is simple, translating the results into management decisions can be more difficult, particularly for those who are new to testing. Testing is available through diagnostic labs, veterinary surgeries and is increasingly performed independently on-farm. We know from previous studies that support and advice from test providers is variable, meaning that some farmers receive results without context or interpretation. Although resources on the practical meaning of results are available (www.scops.org.uk/), extracting the information applicable to individual situations can be challenging and time consuming.
We have developed ‘FEC Check’ to simplify the understanding of faecal egg count results and assist with decision-making by visually demonstrating what the results mean clinically. The tool combats variation in reporting amongst providers, ensuring that everyone has access to the information they need to make knowledgeable management decisions.
Users input faecal egg count results and the app visualises the results on a graph with a colour gradient which represents the clinical impact i.e. green indicates low-level infection, not requiring treatment, and red indicates that treatment is likely needed. The gradient is based on advice from the industry group Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS). Links to reliable resources about sustainable roundworm control and testing have also been included in the app, including “how to collect good quality faecal samples” and “different uses of faecal egg counts”.
Designing and creating FEC Check has been a great experience and we would like to thank the various funding bodies and industry stakeholders who have made it possible. The concept was first development by Eilidh Geddes within her EastBio Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council studentship project. Support from SEFARI Gateway allowed us to build this concept into a prototype and co-design the app with stakeholders. Further funding was attained from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to translate the app into a format which can be hosted on websites and viewed on mobile devices.
Key to the success of this project has been the support from industry stakeholders. We would like to thank the farmers, vets and advisors who willingly gave up their time to test the prototypes and provide valuable feedback. Their input allowed us to adapt our ideas to fit the requirements of the sheep industry, hopefully creating a tool which will be widely used.