Searching for dung beeltes

 

Anuschka Marsman, of Prostock Vets in west Wales, has had an interest in regenerative farming for many years. She has recently completed the VetSalus Sustainable Food and Farming course and has since initiated a few projects on her own farm.

But Anuschka wanted to engage with a group of her clients and challenge them to modify their management practices. Her interest is primarily in soil biology and ecosystems but this lacked a sufficiently strong veterinary bias for the funding provider, so she changed the name, to include dung beetles and parasite control and an exciting new project was born: Dung Beetle Project 2024.

Funding was forthcoming from Farming Connect and First Milk and a group of farmers were invited to join the project. The entire cohort of First Milk suppliers, who were serviced by Prostock, were initially approached, and a total of 31 clients were recruited. These attended an initial meeting in March 2024, where the attendees were spoken to by Rob Howe MRCVS, a recognised expert on the biology and value of dung beetles. Rob also facilitated a dung beetle safari which saw 15 vets in a field searching for dung beetles! The meeting attendees were also briefed on the project’s aims and all were encouraged to use the lungworm vaccine, Huskvac, to reduce the need for anthelmintic intervention : 50% have done so. Additional meetings are planned over the next six months.

 

Initial meeting with Rob Howe MRCVS

 

All participants have completed a questionnaire, which covers anthelmintic treatments throughout 2023 and 2024. The project will run through the 2024 grazing season and a detailed grazing calendar chart has been produced, which has been provided to all participants. This will be used to track stock movements around the fields on the farm, stocking density and all treatments will be recorded. Unlimited faecal egg counts have been made available to participants, with the proviso that these must be performed at least monthly. There will also be regular vet visits, checks on dung beetle populations and treatment advice. Blood pepsinogen samples (to measure parasite stomach damage) and fluke-antibody tests will be undertaken in the Autumn.

Farmers are able to apply their own treatment regimes but will be encouraged to minimise treatments, by checking infection levels first, and to avoid using products that have the potential to reduce dung beetle populations. The results will be monitored periodically and a final summary report will be produced. Anuschka has promised to keep us informed: look out for a midsummer update in August.

 

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