Integrated parasite plan for First Milk Regenerative Pioneer Farm

3 May 2023

As the inaugural Regenerative Pioneer Farm, Barry Connolly is now working with vet specialist and project partner Rob Howe to implement an integrated parasite plan. Rob describes the work he’s doing with Barry on Dykesfield Farm:

To implement a new, integrated parasite plan we needed to assess the farm’s current biodiversity through a survey of dung beetles and other fauna. Dung beetles are the ideal indicative species of the wider ecosystem, through their positive impact on many fauna and flora.

We surveyed 10 heifer pats on a warm, sunny day in a peaty field. In just 45 minutes, we found 20 dung beetles of six different species.

Around 14 other species of beneficial organisms were also found, and we saw 20 different bird species, all insect predators, with significant bird action seen on the pats.

These are impressive results due to several factors. The cows on Dykesfield Farm graze outdoors for large parts of the year on mixed species swards in fields with varying soil types. This offers a variety of habitat with good food availability. The farm is also surrounded by other livestock farms and a SSSI, providing multiple dung sources. Parasitic treatments are low, with no parasiticides used in adult cows and garlic licks replacing fly treatments in the youngstock.

The risk factors identified were the blanket use of wormers in youngstock, the lack of fresh dung when cows are housed and the potential impact of neighbour activity.

The plan for Dykesfield Farm is to implement a few interim measures this season before undertaking more widespread changes next year. These include vaccinating against lungworm and monitoring animal health closely with regular worm egg counts post turnout.

Barry aims to increase the condensed tannin-containing plant species (which can provide a natural anthelmintic effect) within the sward and hedgerows, building on existing levels with species such as chicory. In addition to the current rotational grazing systems, Barry is looking at options around silage aftermath.

Dykesfield Farm is already a highly productive farm teeming with life and I’m looking forward to seeing how these changes make it even better.