IAN LINDSAY says: The Game Conservancy’s upland researchers have been conducting worm counts as part of their effort to overcome the strongylosis cycle and its impact on grouse populations.

Having developed techniques to reduce worm burdens in grouse through direct dosing and the use of medicated grit, it is obviously crucial to know when your grouse are likely to need one – or both – of these treatments.

To conduct a worm count we need the guts from ten young and ten old grouse to give a representative sample. We then remove the caeca, wash them out through a series of specially designed sieves to collect and count the worms.

As a rough guide, when the average count exceeds 1500 – 2000 (depending on geographic location, stage of cycle and weather conditions) you should consider introducing one of the techniques mentioned above for reducing worm burdens.

Ideally, these gut samples should be collected from birds shot as late into the season as possible. In this respect many keepers will plan to take the guts from grouse killed on their last shoot.

Guts are relatively easily removed by making an incision across the cloaca, pushing the hand around the edge of the body cavity and then withdrawing the entire entrails as one unit.

The guts from each bird should be placed in individual plastic bags, labelled with the date and place shot, and the age and sex of the bird. Samples can be frozen down or delivered fresh direct to your Regional Advisor for analysis.

You will receive a detailed analysis giving the results of each sample counted, together with the geometric average over the whole 20 sample. The analysis process is a time-consuming one, therefore a charge is made for the service, which includes the count of 20 samples and a written summary of the results.

You can get contact details of your nearest GCT advisor from our head office in Fordingbridge on 01425 652381.