12 February 2024
Postal worm egg count specialists, Westgate Labs, was started by husband-and-wife duo David and Gillian Booth back in 1999. The tiny business set out with a huge mission to improve the knowledge and practice of horse worming in the UK, from their farm in Northumberland.
David recollects: “It was the most exciting of times, making plans and learning all we could to pave the way for the change we knew needed to happen. Resistance was coming to the fore in sheep farming, yet accepted practice in horses was still to dose on a routine schedule, it seemed no one had even heard of using worm egg counts back then. We could see what the threat of resistance could do and all this potential to make a difference. Somebody needed to take it on, and we made the decision to step up.”
Gillian says: “From its tiny beginnings the business has surpassed all expectations. We’re immensely proud of what’s been achieved. Worm egg counts are now accepted practice for horse parasite control, research has given us additional tests and better knowledge about management to reduce our reliance on chemicals. It’s very fulfilling to have led the way in these changes and to have made such a significant difference to horse health.” “In the beginning we absolutely underestimated the challenge of changing behaviour. It wasn’t just promoting a service but selling a whole new concept. Its why education, customer support and innovation remain at the forefront of everything we do.”
Over the last 25 years, the levels of resistance to our licenced worming chemicals have worsened faster than we’ve been able to adopt new practices. There now isn’t a wormer that isn’t showing a level of resistance and the threat to horse health and equine businesses is now headline news in the equestrian press. Despite all the excellent work in this area there’s still much work to be done.
Westgate Labs continue to lead in this area as a trusted source of advice, recognised with numerous awards and accolades for their services and by actively contributing to pan industry campaigns such as CANTER, Controlling ANTiparasitic resistance in Equines Responsibly. From its small beginnings the company has grown to support thousands of horse owners, yard managers, retailers, merchants and vets to implement targeted parasite control programmes and protect their animals from growing resistance problems. They now employ 15 members of staff, with David and Gillian still very much involved as non-executive directors.
Westgate remains a small family business with helping horses at its heart, committed to innovating and sharing best practice on horse health for many years to come. Daughter Claire Shand, who officially joined Westgate as a Director in 2015 commented: “It’s our intention to continue to adapt to the changing landscape with the health of horses as our core principle. Despite all the information out there, too many horses are still being wormed routinely and so we’re certainly not resting on our laurels! Growing in a scalable way to maintain the personal service to our customers whilst deepening our commitment to sustainability and the environment is our objective and we’re certainly up to the challenge. Here’s to the next twenty-five!”
We’re pleased to work in partnership with Westgate Labs on the Yard Owner Hub, sharing their guidance and advice for yard owners when it comes to preventing worm infestations. They also offer tailored advice and FEWC packs for yards with 10+ horses. You can find out more on the Worming and Biosecurity sections of the Yard Owner Hub.
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