Rural Whanganui people are taking action to reduce the amount of sheep measles on local farms.

Sheep measles are caused by a tapeworm in dogs, and spread when unwormed dogs go on to rural properties. The parasite is more common around Whanganui than in most rural places, and especially prevalent in the Fordell area.

Farmers Brenda and Andy Collins got busy on December 7-9, offering free worming for Fordell and Okoia residents. The initiative is funded by over a dozen local lamb producing farmers. More than 50 dogs were first weighed, then given a tablet.

"Most happily took their pill in some dog roll," Brenda Collins said.

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At Fordell on the Friday, Wanganui Veterinary Services treated the dog owners to a barbecue.

The Collins were helped in their efforts by Wanganui Federated Farmers president Mike Cranstone, and by the national project manager for Ovis Management, Dan Lynch.

Lynch brought along a leg of lamb to show the cysts and lesions the parasite causes in sheep meat.

"We would like to thank Virbac NZ for kindly donating tablets," Collins said.

She was pleased with the response from dog owners and is planning more dosing days during the summer.

Some worming products don't get rid of the tapeworms, and she said lack of knowledge about the parasite is making sheep measles more prevalent.

"Farmers are quite justified in refusing entry of dogs to their farms if the owner can't produce proof of effective worming."

Certification is available free of charge with purchase of a tablet from Wanganui Veterinary Services.