Raising Sheep for Fecal Egg Count Improves Immune Health | Breaking News in Breeding, Breeding and Away

ROCK SPRINGS, Pa. — Selecting and breeding sheep for their faecal egg counts can reduce the need for deworming and boost animal immune systems.

But for the best implementation of this practice, however, farmers need to provide more data than they currently do.

Scott Bowdridge, a professor of animal science at the University of West Virginia, presented his research at a sheep and goat field day Aug. 11, which was part of Penn State’s Ag Progress Days.






Scott Bowdridge is a professor at the University of West Virginia and leads a team of researchers studying fecal egg count and immune health in sheep.




The research, conducted in partnership with Virginia Tech, found that raising sheep with low faecal egg counts gives the animals high natural immunity against worms and better disease resistance overall. These sheep develop more antibodies in response to vaccinations, Bowdridge said.

Mothers with lower faecal egg counts also have more IGG, an antibody that is passed on in the diet of the offspring.

The study was conducted on Katahdin sheep. Bowdridge has been researching parasites and sheep since 2002, but started the project about 11 years ago when a student wanted to study weaning survivability.

On June 11, 2023, antibiotics for livestock will no longer be available over the counter. Farmers will need to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian.

A veterinarian-client-patient relationship will always be necessary, but one of the goals of this research is that farmers can raise healthier sheep that are less susceptible to worms and other diseases and thus require less medical attention.

For the research to be applicable to the industry, Bowdridge recommends that sheep farmers provide animal information to the National Sheep Improvement Program, which has a searchable database. Only a small percentage of American sheep are in the database, but expanding participation will help farmers know an animal’s fecal egg count before buying it.

Due to the paucity of data on sheep in the United States, Bowdridge suggests that farmers who wish to breed to boost their immune systems purchase a ram that has faecal egg count data and then continue recording the data. of the offspring of the ram.

Bowdridge and his team noticed that Suffolk sheep, which are one of the breeds most susceptible to disease, have a different protein structure than Katahdin sheep or the generally hearty St. Croix sheep. He would like to continue his research to see if modifying this protein improves the immune system of the Suffolk breed.

Bowdridge said this research could be applied to other species.