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As game bird vets, the weather can have a major impact on the challenges we come across during the season, with a key challenge being the control of parasites.
Worm burdens seem to be much lower this year and this has been in part due to the relatively dry weather. Worm eggs need moisture and warmth to hatch and thrive, and whilst the 2018/19 shooting season has so far been relatively mild, the dry conditions have appeared to prevent the heavier burdens we would normally see. I have only seen two cases of heavy worm burdens this year, on estates that actually see the issue year-on-year, despite many changes.
This year, mycoplasma seems to be the most common disease problem we are seeing – although cases of the disease don’t appear to be related. The disease has great potential to vastly reduce the flying capabilities of birds for life and, in some cases, has forced the closure of shoots.
It is clear that we are still learning a great deal about this disease and how it reacts in game species. We are heavily involved in research projects, whether that is through studies or small groups of shoots working together to eradicate the problem. We have seen similar problems in other poultry industries over the years and, thankfully, this problem can be overcome with cooperation, testing, strategic culling and vaccination.
We are encouraging all of our clients to create a mycoplasma reduction/prevention plan for their sites. Working collectively we can reduce this disease but it must involve transparency, total honesty and involvement of vets, keepers, feed companies, land owners and shooting agents.