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Fear that worms will turn resistant; Anti- parasite gains at risk,experts warn.


A CALL for sheep farmers to be more strategic in their use of worming products has come on the heels of an MP's criticism of Welsh farmers using a non-livestock treatment on their sheep.

While antihelmintics have over the past 40 years provided very effective control for the sheep sector,experts warn that these gains are now being threatened by the development of resistance.

Sheep industry and veterinary leaders have discussed the recommendations of a workshop held by DEFRA earlier this year, now included in a booklet on the control of internal parasites in sheep.

It recommends a quarantine treatment regime for bought in animals and underlines the importance of: good drenching technique; the need to rotate chemical groups; testing flocks to determine best times to treat; and the correct use of safe pastures.

It also advocates the elimination of unnecessary dosing,particularly of ewes.

Alick Simmons, who heads DEFRA's veterinary endemic disease and zoo noses division, says disease caused by internal parasitism in sheep is one of the greatest causes of financial loss to the sheep industry.

He said: ``Government has recognised the threat that anthelmintic resistance poses and these new recommendations are intended to help slow its progress.

``If this initiative is to be really effective, whole ranges of partners throughout the sheep industry now need to be involved.

He says the move to a more sustainable use of anthelmintics sits well with the animal health and welfare strategy that the Government is looking to in the future.

Paul Tyler MP, the chair of the All-Party Group on organophosphate sheep dips, expressed his frustration at news that a minority of sheep farmers in Wales have felt driven to use a toxic arable pesticide.

He is pressing for an assessment of whether this is widespread and what the implications are.

The group has long campaigned for the government to accept the long-term health consequences. There are a range of state sponsored studies underway but officially, it remains the view that there is ``currently no scientific justification for banning OP sheep dips.''

Paul Tyler says government must accept the seriousness of the situation with regard to past dippers, and place urgent emphasis on the development of non toxic and safe alternatives.

``It is bad enough that farmers should have no safe alternative to toxic compounds and that the price might force a minority to irresponsibly use a dangerous alternative,'' he added.

``This issue will not go away -the numbers of sheep dip farmers suffering ill health will only increase with time. Urgent measures must be adopted by the government.''
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2003
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