Faecal Egg Counting in house

21st January 2019

In an attempt to improve the animal health status of our client’s stock we have recently purchased a FECPAK machine which enables us to measure Faecal Eggs Count in-house with results obtainable within 24 hours.

We are all familiar with Faecal Egg Counts and the importance they play with our on-farm parasite control practices within sheep flocks. Worm control in cattle has traditionally been slightly overlooked as the consequences are not as spectacular as in sheep, i.e. death. However it has become increasingly apparent with recent research that worm burdens are also having significant adverse effects on cattle herds, primarily through reduced weight gains and poorer feed conversion efficiency.

We were interested in the FECPAK machine for a number of reasons including:

  • Fresh samples can be collected and submitted at Coolah, Coonabarabran or Merriwa Veterinary Clinics. Depending on the time of submission results are possible within 6-24 hours.
  • Samples processed are fresher than those sent via mail to the lab resulting in more accurate results.
  • It is able to process sheep, cattle and horse faeces to assess faecal egg counts

The main disadvantage of the FEKPAK machine is that it only gives us a Faecal Egg Count and NOT a larval differentiation. As such, there are occasions when samples need to be sent to the laboratory (either EMAI or Dawbuts) for differentiation. In these cases the FEKPAK machine provides an ideal option for performing a post-drench faecal egg count to assess the efficacy of the drench used. In regards to cattle, there are a limited number of options when it comes to choosing drench classes, as such a larval differentiation may be of less importance and a straight faecal egg count will suffice.

Keeping all of that in mind, the roles we see the FEKPAK playing are:

  1. Providing the ability to quickly check whether a significant parasite burden is present i.e. assessing Barbers Pole numbers in sheep 2-4 weeks post a rain event. If so then an educated assessment is required to determine whether or not a larval differentiation is required.
  2. Able to perform a Faecal Egg Count on heifers and cows prior to a management procedure such as pregnancy testing. If a pooled sample is submitted a few days prior to preg-testing and results show a significant worm burden then drenching can be carried out while the cattle are being processed. This allows us to introduce a little more science into choosing when to drench cattle, especially older cows, and will help to avoid unnecessary drench use.
  3. Providing a quick and inexpensive means of doing regular Faecal Egg Counts on susceptible classes of stock (lambs/calves/weaners/etc) in between drenches.
  4. As a measure to assess the efficacy of your drenching program in order to monitor and identify any resistance issues we would recommend performing another pooled Faecal Egg Count 10-14 days post drenching to ensure a good kill was obtained.

As an aside, it is important to remember that by performing post drench egg counts we are not only assessing the active ingredient(s) used but also the form of application. Due to its ease of use, back liners form the mainstay of drenching in cattle herds. However by performing follow up eggs counts we have been finding that the efficacy of these products has not been satisfactory in a number of cases. The use of an injectable or oral drench (using the same class of treatment) has been successful at eliminating the worm burden in most of these cases. The same has been demonstrated in sheep and back line products with a label claims for internal parasites are much less likely to be as effective as oral or injectable products, even when applied immediately off shears.

When using the FEKPAK machine, typically we will be testing pooled samples of 10-15 animals. Attached to this email are submission forms plus collection instructions. Samples are easily collected in plastic zip lock backs (larger bags are better than the small sandwich bags) to keep them airtight. If samples are dropped at your nearest clinic we shall get results back ASAP.

Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any further queries regarding the FEKPAK machine or about worms in your stock in general.