Challenge description

Description of the Challenge The overuse of anthelminthics to control worms in sheep can lead to anthelmintic resistance. Currently, farmers administer anthelmintics to all animals in the flock regardless of the health status of the individuals. Treating sheep unnecessarily can cause a build-up of resistance. To solve this problem, sheep which need to be treated should to be identified and healthy sheep should remain untreated.

Worms in sheep are a serious issue in the sheep industry, especially if they remain untreated or in the case of resistance remain unable to be treated. Animals with a high worm burden have a significantly reduced growth rate and in extreme cases the worm burden will lead to emaciation and death. Sometimes a farmer may treat an entire flock with anthelmintic but then realise weeks later that the dose has not worked due to anthelmintic resistance. Currently, it is standard practice to weigh sheep on a regular basis to inform the farmer as to what sheep should be drafted for slaughter. The proposed solution may utilize this data to monitor growth rates of sheep and any deviation from expected growth rate may indicate a anthelmintic treatment is required. Additionally, having accurate weights of animals will allow for accurate treatment to be given as treating animals with too small an amount of anthelmintic can accelerate anthelmintic resistance.

Fundamental requirements and constraints

Recently, new laws have been introduced in Ireland whereby all lambs must now have an electronic identification tag. Before these rules were established it would have been impossible to implement this solution in an automated way as most sheep could not be individually identified by a computer, it is now possible to gather large amounts of data in a semi-automated fashion. The most difficult part of this solution will be differentiating between a healthy and normal deviation in weight from a weight change due to worm burden; this will require a large dataset to be gathered and specialised algorithms to be implemented.

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Country Ireland

Contact informations

Name of the organisation Sheep Ireland
Brief overview

Improving the genetic gain of the Irish sheep flock through improved selection

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