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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Farmers' perception on the control of gastrointestinal parasites in organic and conventional sheep production in Sweden

Halvarsson, Peter; Gustafsson, Katarina; Hoglund, Johan

Abstract

A questionnaire was sent to sheep owners in Sweden to get information about anthelmintic drug use. The survey also investigated how respondents experienced problems with gastrointestinal nematode infections (GIN) focusing on Haemonchus contortus. The response rate was 31% and included both conventional and organic farms. The use of anthelmintics was low (45%), among which a majority (76%) drenched ewes on a single occasion, mostly with ivermectin (59%) followed by albendazole (19%). Other drugs were used rarely, however, unawareness of GIN risk was high (19%), especially among respondents with few animals. Anthelmintic dose calculations were done after visual appraisal by 63% and 22% calibrated the equipment before drug delivery, which is worrying since underdosing is a risk factor for the development of anthelmintic resistance. Like with anthelmintics, the perceived risk for GIN increased with herd size both by conventional and organic farmers. Faecal examination for the presence of GIN was done by 65% of the respondents and, among their sheep, H. contortus was or had been diagnosed in 41% of the herds. Irrespective of new stock had been imported from other countries or not, common problems were reported by 5% and 7% of the organic and conventional producers, respectively. Land use and grazing management strategies differed more in relation to herd size than by production form, with a majority (47%) having their sheep grazed in several paddocks, or at least the lambs were moved when separated from the ewes at weaning (25%). In contrast set stocked grazing was mainly reported on smaller farms. Co-grazing with cattle and horses were also frequently reported irrespective of production form, but with cattle to a somewhat greater degree on larger organic farms. Wild cervids, especially roe deer, were frequently observed on sheep pastures (87%). The veterinary involvement was higher on organic (65%) than on conventional farms (53%), and only 5% considered advice unimportant. Still, some conventional and organic producers treated sheeps routinely without a prior diagnosis, against the national regulations. 46% of the respondents drenched new and replacement stock. In conclusion, although some differences were observed between conventional and organic producers, the divergences were mainly due to herd size categories. Furthermore, despite a high veterinary involvement, we identified factors which can contribute to anthelmintic use, such as poor quarantine procedures, and deworming routines that can contribute to anthelmintic resistance in H. contortus.

Keywords

Anthelmintic treatment; Veterinary advice; Animal density; Land use; Co-grazing; Haemonchus contortus

Published in

Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports
2022, Volume: 30, article number: 100713Publisher: ELSEVIER