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Beyond the Bale : December 2011
30 30 selling more wool September 2010 Beyond the Bale December 2011 Beyond the Bale 30 on-Farm Woolbrokers are urging producers to be vigilant against lice infestations which can affect an enterprise’s bottom line by downgrading wool quality and reducing fleece weight. Managing director of Jemalong Wool, Rowan Woods, based in Forbes, NSW says that wool that is badly affected by lice can be heavily discounted (see table below). “When wool prices were reaching their peak in June earlier this year, 19 micron wool was being discounted by over three dollars per kilo greasy if it was badly affected by lice,” Rowan says. “When you also take into account that lice can also cause reductions in wool cut of up to a kilo per head, say from five kilos to four kilos, the wool from a lice free sheep was bringing in about $61 a head as opposed to $36 a head for badly lice affected sheep. That’s a difference of $25 a head. “If you apply those discounts across a woolgrower’s flock of 2000 head, the woolgrower is missing out on income of over $50,000.” Woolgrowers with larger flocks risk larger amounts of income. Don Macdonald of Don Macdonald & Co Woolbrokers at Dubbo, NSW knows of one woolgrower who should have recently earned $350,000 from his clip but ended up getting only around $200,000 due to lice infestations. “Up to 20 percent of the fleece can be lost and there can be discounts on the remaining wool of around $20 per head,” Don says. “Once you do spot lice, it ’s important to be thorough. There’s no point scrimping on the treatment applications; you’ve got to follow the instructions strictly by dosing and applying the treatment correctly. “It costs about a dollar a head in products to treat lice, which is relatively little when compared to how much a fleece can be discounted. Plus treatment generally happens at shearing so there’s not too much extra mustering costs involved. “When woolgrowers do the sums, they should quickly realise how financially important lice control and prevention is. I think part of the problem is that lice can be difficult to spot and the effects are not as visibly confronting for the woolgrower as the effects of flystrike, so woolgrowers unfortunately don’t act until they see the effects of lice at shearing.” If left unchecked, sheep lice can downgrade wool quality by reducing yield and increasing the amount of wool placed in inferior lines because of unscourable colour and cotting. Lice-affected wool also suffers greater card loss during processing, reduced top yield, reduced mean fibre length in the wool top and increased noil (short broken fibres). Lice control is an important part of sheep wellbeing. Although lice do not cause reductions in body weight, animals in poor condition due to poor nutrition or disease often develop heavier infestations of lice. Rowan says that in the past year or two, the lice problem has been the worst that it has been in over twenty years. “During periods of poor wool prices, woolgrowers’ management practices deteriorated because they didn’t think it worthwhile to bother being so attentive. And then in more recent years, lice have built up a resistance to some products. Add to that the increase in exotic breeds plus increased stock movements, and we had perfect conditions for the spread of lice. “There are producers whose flocks have never had lice suddenly finding that they now have a problem.” Don agrees that lice have been the worst they have been in 20 years in some areas. “ The incidence of lice comes in waves,” Don says. “ It’s resulted from such things as woolgrower complacency, when wool prices are low; and growing resistance to certain products, such as insect growth regulators (IGRs). It ’s very important to rotate product families. “Diversification from pure Merino enterprises to cross-breds, exotics and other livestock, and cropping, has also led to less focus by farmers on lice control. There’s probably less chance nowadays that your neighbours are all running Merinos.” Rowan and Don both stress the importance of woolgrowers working together with their neighbours to combat lice and ensure lice free flocks stay protected from lice, even if their neighbours are not running Merinos. At the end of the day, lice management best practice hasn’t changed for decades. There may be some new lice treatments, bans on old products and spreading product resistance, but the management principles remain the same. More information: AWI’s 24-page LiceSense manual is a refresher for lice management principles and can be used in conjunction with AWI’s LiceBoss website (www.wool.com/liceboss). Order a free hard copy from the AWI Helpline on 1800 070 099 or download a soft copy from www.wool.com/publications Fast Facts l Woolbrokers are warning woolgrowers that lice infected wool can be heavily discounted, causing a significant reduction to woolgrowers’ income. l Woolgrowers should be especially vigilant at the moment because lice infestations are at their worst for 20 years. l Woolgrowers should follow lice management best practice principles to prevent and control lice. Lice bite into income reLatIve Income From LIce Free anD BaDLY LIce aFFecteD FLocK oF 2000 (saLe 50 – June 2011) LICE FREE BADLY LICE AFFECTED Micron: 19.0 Micron: 19.0 Yield (SCH): 70.0 Yield (SCH): 65.0 Length: 90mm Length: 85mm Strength: 40 Nkt Strength: 30 Nkt Clean price 1760 c/kg Clean price 1393 c/kg Greasy price 1232 c/kg Greasy price 905 c/kg Average cut per head is 5kg Average cut per head is 4kg Income = $61.60 per head Income = $36.20 per head Total greasy discount: 327 c/kg or $25.40 per head In a flock of 2000, that’s a discount of $50,800 .00 2011-06-21L i ceBossA5Manua l.i ndd 1 19/08/2011 2 : 31 : 12PM