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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

FlyBoss all good at Goondiwindi

Posted by Bestprac on Sep 06 2010

Mark and Vicki Murphy, ‘Karbullah’ via Goondiwindi have moved-on from a ‘cure’ approach to flystrike.

Mark and Vicki Murphy
Positive proof that flystrike prevention is in the genes is on show every day on the Brigalow plains country of southern Queensland.

In a climate where temperature and rainfall can collide to create flystrike waves in susceptible sheep, Mark and Vicki Murphy, ‘Karbullah’ via Goondiwindi have moved-on from a ‘cure’ approach.

“Our sheep have always been plain bodied, though over the last ten years we’ve really focused on breeding out wrinkle. We reached a point in 2003 where we questioned the need to mules, and Vicki put her foot down and said ‘right, we’re going to stop’,” Mark says.

“I confess to having a few doubting moments; though when 2004 came around we stuck to the resolve, left the shears in the shed and got on with making sure all management aspects were up to scratch.

“Every lamb drop since 2004 has not been mulesed, and we’re not going back there.”

The key management practises for the Murphy’s merino’s include:

  • using a long-acting fly repellant on the tail at marking time
  • judicious crutching
  • shearing all stock when wool length passes 80mm (rather than on a calendar basis)
  • culling stock that develop dag problems
  • wrinkle-scoring all sheep

Karbullah consists of 1830 hectares of mixed Belah-Brigalow and Ironbark-Pine country, with up to 600 mm of summer dominant rainfall received in a ‘normal’ year. The merino enterprise of 1,000 stud merino ewes is self-replacing and consists of the poll stud (Karbullah) and a horned-stud (Boyanga) both are producing wool of 19.2 to 19.4 micron.

Mark now doesn’t even classify flies as a major issue.

“We’ve learnt that the last wrinkle to be bred off a sheep is in the tail area, so we cull any weaners that have bum scribble. And since we have no bum wrinkle, there is no need to mules.”

He says of Karbullah’s 2009 drop weaners, 96.5% have a breech wrinkle score of 1; and 3.5% have a breech wrinkle score of 2.

“The sheep are now so free of flystrike risk that we’re now tending to crutch just once a year, and even then, it’s more focused on removing stain before shearing. And we don’t jet.”

Mr Murphy welcomes the launch of the FlyBoss website as an impressive tool.

“It’s easy to follow and the ability of FlyBoss to tailor a management calendar to districts and environments is valuable.

“This is the just the sort of tool that industry needs to move forward on this mulesing issue.”

Mark says the common perception about impact on wool cut doesn’t necessarily add-up.

“Our sheep had a slight reduction in wool weight as we zeroed in on breeding out wrinkles, but wool cuts are coming back up again. One client has just shorn an average 8.2 kgs of 19.5 micron wool off low wrinkle 2-tooth ewes.”

He says the key’s are culling wrinkly sheep and using impact genetics.

“If the right rams are used, a huge start can be made in the first year and progress accelerates in subsequent generations. And don’t be lulled into thinking that just selecting plainer rams will do - the rate of change will be too slow.”

“I have seen another flock go from having a breech wrinkle score of 4.5 to 5 reduced down to 1 to 1.1 from just six years of breeding. That operator hasn’t mulesed since 2006 and has virtually no fly issues.” he says.

Flystrike Management workshops are being conducted across Australia by the Sheep CRC and participating agencies. Information about local workshops can be found at www.flyboss.org.au by clicking on the ‘industry training’ button.

Last changed: Feb 07 2012

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