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Beyond the Bale : Dec 08 - Jan 09
6 Managing flystrike Beyond the Bale information program helps growers manage flystrike By Melissa Marino Tasmania’s 8x5 Wool Profit Program is helping the industry manage flystrike in line with the commitment to phase-out mulesing. Coordinator Warren Hunt says the three-phase program aims to develop effective and sustainable answers for woolgrowers across the state. In phase one, and with the assistance of AWI, awareness of the issue was raised using 8x5 newsletters and electronic media. Phase two established a 13-member breech- strike management plenary group comprising industry and research stakeholders, which devised a series of ‘Best Bet’ strategies to minimise risk. Phase three is now extending that knowledge through the 8x5 group networks and pilot workshops, informing people of the facts and how to best manage breech-strike risk. “We’ve raised the general need, worked out exactly what we wanted to do and now we’re extending that,” Warren says. “We’ve instigated a breech-strike management program, which has taken the lead in informing the wool-growing community here on how to tackle the problem.” Warren says examples already set by growers, such as Richard and Tony Gee and Rae and Lindsay Young, demonstrate that the breech- strike issue can be overcome and handled within manageable and sustainable production systems without mulesing. The two wool-growing families have participated in 8x5 extension activities in Tasmania, sharing their experience with others, and here they explain how breeding for plainer-bodied sheep, combined with specific management systems, has meant that they have been able to avoid both mulesing and breech strike, without detriment to their bottom lines. ú More information: www.8x5.com.au; Warren Hunt, email@example.com long-term management limits flystrike threat Case study 1 It should come as no surprise that Tony Gee and his son Richard have a management program to reduce flystrike risk without mulesing when you learn it has been finely tuned over four decades. Fingal Valley woolgrower Tony began breeding for plain-bodied sheep in the 1960s, with the key objective of reducing excessive skin wrinkle while striving for soft, fine, white wool. It was a decision that instigated a management system based on selective breeding and the careful timing of shearing and crutching which, along with the aid of a dry climate, has meant that in 40 years he has never had to mules. The system is so effective that when Richard decided a few years ago to undertake a small mulesing trial (“because everyone else seemed to be doing it”), he found it to have no clear benefit. “We did a trial and afterwards thought ‘Why mules?’, we have other methods of overcoming breech strike if it arises,” he says. But incidences of breech strike in the Gee’s flock of about 4,000 Saxon Merinos – a Merino strain found predominantly in cooler climates and prized for its wool quality – across two properties are mimimal because of the breeding and flock management. Despite producing sheep that are inherently at less risk of flystrike because of their plainer bodies, Richard says risk is primarily managed through the timing of their operations. This includes a late spring or early summer shearing, which removes wool from sheep during the worst period for flystrike, eliminating a big section from the breech-strike risk curve. “With the type of wool we’ve got, we like shearing at that time of year,” Richard says. “We get two months’ grace as the flies become active with warmer conditions.” Risk management is enhanced through the timing of crutching: one at pre-lambing, when ewes are prone to staining, and another, if needed, in late summer or early autumn. “We’d prefer not to do an early crutching and, to date, we haven’t had to, but it is an option if the conditions arise. “Generally, crutching is all right for us because we don’t have many sheep, but if you’ve got a larger flock the logistics could be awkward.” The other option is a chemical treatment and, while they try to avoid chemicals as much as possible, Richard says people will need to accept there may be more chemical use without mulesing. Warren Hunt, 8x5 Wool Profit Program coodinator, who is running extension programs on breech strike
February March 2009
Oct - Nov 08