And no, we are not talking about John, Paul, George and Ringo here…
Dung beetles, as the name would imply, absolutely love animal dung. They eat the stuff and live in it!
Dung beetles are found on all animal farms and play a very important role in the food chain. They consume the pats on pasture, burying dung back into the soil. This not only gives nutrients back to the soil, but it can disrupt the life cycle of infectious parasites. Having a healthy population of dung beetles could reduce the worm burden in a grazing herd by up to 30%, according to Ireland’s leading Dung Beetle Whisperer, Bruce Thompson.
“Dung beetles play an important role in animal health. When it is dropped, the pat sits on top of the soil as a noxious weed, full of nutrients and parasites. Dung beetles accelerate the rate of decay of these pats, placing the nutrients at the roots of the grass and removing the parasites away from pasture.” – Bruce Thompson
Dung beetle populations are in some serious trouble due to some of the chemicals commonly used in agriculture. Wormers have been shown to have a distinct negative effect on dung beetles, therefore by using wormers we are actually reducing nature’s ability to deal with parasites.
To avoid this, we should focus on using wormers only when and where they are needed. This is where diagnosis is key. Performing regular faecal egg counts allows us to monitor the parasite burden levels within the herd or flock so that we can adopt a targeted dosing approach.
You can read more about faecal egg counts and internal parasite control HERE.
Targeted dosing can also be easier on the wallet, as FECs will often show a very low worm burden or no burden at all, meaning a dose may not be warranted. Even when a dose is required, performing a worm test prior to dosing will ensure the most effective chemical can be used depending on the type of parasites present. Overall, the targeted approach to gut worm management will lead to healthier and more profitable animals.
Now, back to dung beetles…
These little guys are a very important link in the food chain. Small songbirds rely on a plentiful supply of insects to feed their young throughout the spring and summer months, who are in-turn relied on by the sparrowhawks and buzzards and so on. So, having a thriving dung beetle population can be extremely beneficial for the overall biodiversity.
Further resources on dung beetles and their benefits can be found at dungbeetlesforfarmers.co.uk.