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Beyond the Bale : May 2010
Don't take the risk: worm test FAST FACTS l For most sheep producers, the sustainable management and control of sheep worms are essential for future prosperity. l With wetter than usual conditions this year, internal parasites are having a significant impact on production. l Worm Egg Counts are an important practical tool to estimate the burden of adult worms in monitored sheep. 22 WOOL PRODUCTION May 2010 BEYOND THE BALE Wetter than usual conditions across much of the eastern seaboard, coupled with warm temperatures, means 2010 promises to be a bumper year for wool and sheep producers. But they are also being warned to keep a close eye on worm burdens in their flocks or risk production losses up to $16,000 for every 5000 head. With at least average rainfall expected to continue through autumn, pasture growth is already excellent. However, few producers realise that internal parasites are already having a significant impact. Worms are the number one challenge to sheep in Australia, costing the industry about $400 million each year. More than 80 per cent of this cost is due to production losses, which are often subtle and go unnoticed. By the time worm infections are obvious, whether through anaemia and deaths in the case of barber 's pole worm and liver fluke, or scouring from scour worm infections, production losses can be substantial. While a drop of 70 to 100 grams in wool growth or one to two kilograms of weight gain may not be noticed, they will cause losses of $7000 to $14,000 in a mob of 5000 sheep. For many, the losses will be even greater -- in the $4 per head range -- as a result of poor diagnosis and drench choice. It is a cost few producers can afford. Research shows that by using worm egg counts (WECs), producers can at least halve production losses due to worms. Despite this, only 24 per cent of producers use such tests regularly, meaning most leave the management of their worm burden to guesswork. Such statistics baffle those who are committed to testing. Collecting samples for the test is simple (see box opposite). Victorian wool and prime lamb producers Rick and Jenny Robertson are one couple who won't risk production losses as a result of internal parasites in their flock. Running a 1000-hectare property at Bengworden, near Bairnsdale, they have been using WECs for several years. "Managing against drench resistance was an increasing problem for us about three years ago. So we did a test and discovered that certain drugs were losing their efficacy," Mr Robertson says. The couple now do WECs and test regularly to monitor worm burdens and effectiveness of drenches. "I don't routinely drench according to a calendar as this is an unnecessary cost and results in drench resistance," Mr Robertson says. Research demonstrates that most sheep farms have some degree of drench resistance and most have resistance to more than one class of drench. A WEC 10 to 14 days after drenching will confirm (or otherwise) that the drench was indeed effective. Testing provides early warning of a worm burden, and can also cut the number drenches required, saving time and money. More information: Visit WormBoss (www.wool.com/wormboss) to: • view a short step-by-step video guide to Worm Egg Counts and how to collect a sample • learn more about worm management and reducing drench resistance • access free monthly email alerts about worms in your region. WormBoss was developed by AWI and the CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation. Victorian woolgrower Rick Robertson, who farms near Bairnsdale, regularly monitors worm burdens and the effectiveness of drenches.