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ARTICLES >> Livestock Articles

Sheep Worms Still A Threat In Pastoral Districts

Posted by Bestprac on Feb 02 2012

Arthur LeFeuvre, WormBoss


One thing you can say about the pastoral sheep districts of NSW and Queensland is that seasons are mostly “feast or famine”. Thus, we come out of a disastrous drought into prolonged rain and floods, and now face managing parasites rather than nutrition.

Luckily, the good season has coincided with good markets, for both sheep meat and wool, so there is some serious money to be made if management is sound.
In the main, blowflies have come and gone (but watch out come spring!). So what about worms?

Generally, worms are poorly understood and managed in pastoral sheep areas, mainly because they are not perceived as an important issue, most of the time. Sometimes this is true, often it is not.

Barber’s Pole (Haemonchus) is usually the main visible threat in pastoral areas, as it can cause deaths if not diagnosed early. It is a painful experience to wake up one day and find a couple of hundred dead fat wethers, worth over $100.00/hd.

A good subclinical (invisible) infestation of Barbers Pole worms also knocks weight gains around badly.

Scour worms (Trichostrongylus and Ostertagia) are rarely a big issue, although if we have a wet winter, they may well emerge as a significant problem, particularly in NSW.

Nodule worm (Oesophagostomum) these days rarely cause the ill-thrift seen 30 years ago. However, they are still around and major sheep meat exporters discount known “knotty gut” flocks ($2.00 - $3.00/hd).

What to do?

  • Don’t rely on the weather! – Many Queensland pastoralists think that, when the weather cools off, Barbers Pole worms roll their swags and head for Cairns. Eggs on pasture will continue to hatch if day temperatures are over the magical 18°C – and that is most days! Add a bit of rain and – here we go again!
  • Do regular Worm Egg Counts (WECs). Producers normally check the oil and water in machinery to ensure no catastrophes occur – a $100,000.00 mob of sheep deserves the same attention. A fat lamb or wether pays for a few $40.00 WECs!!
  • Do a WEC 10 – 14 days after drenching to be certain the drench was effective. Drench resistance is more common in pastoral districts than you think. It is a fact that the majority of sheep producers in Australia have no factual evidence that the drench they buy and use is effective. And “they look fine”, is not factual evidence!!
  • Do ask a professional animal health consultant or Departmental officer for an opinion if you are at all unsure of anything. Managing worms effectively can be tricky, so don’t be too proud to ask for advice. Professionals keep up-to-date and are cheap for what they provide.
  • Go to and subscribe to the monthly worm news. It’s free and keeps you updated on worm activity in your part of the world.

Last changed: Feb 06 2012



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