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Queensland worms, flies and lice update - December 2015

Brisbane: Maxine Murphy, Sheep Parasitologist (maxine@paraboss.com.au)

For those properties that have had patchy rain and overcast weather, barber’s pole may very well be a threat over Christmas. If sheep have access to areas of green pick, keep up the worm tests, and FAMACHA© (examine the colour inside the lower eyelid) the ‘tail’ group of a few mobs once a week. Sheep showing signs of anaemia and slow to muster need to be drenched immediately.

There are two things we know about barber’s pole: infections develop explosively over summer and it kills, often very quickly. So here are a few strategies to ponder in those precious spare moments you might have:

  • Are you contemplating buying rams in the next few months? Maybe it’s time to investigate breeding for worm resistance using an ASBV (estimated breeding value) for worm egg count (WEC). Rams with low breeding value for WEC breed lambs that carry fewer worms than the average sheep, and produce fewer eggs onto pasture. Sheep need this heightened level of immunity if deaths are to be avoided.
  • A vaccine for barber’s pole worm has been the dream of the sheep industry for many years. And now it is a reality, just in time, as effective drench products are few and far between. The haemonchus vaccine, branded as Barbervax® is currently registered for adult sheep as well as lambs. Start the vaccine early in spring to protect young sheep over summer – and monitor its progress with regular worm testing especially if summer rains start in late October. Increased immunity to worms will kick in just after the third injection.
  • It can be a bit tricky choosing a drench product if drench testing isn’t on your agenda—combinations of effective actives are considered the best but one size does not fit all! As we know that drench failure is an inevitable consequence of repeatedly using a drench, so then it makes sense to do a worm egg count on the mob 10 days after drenching. You do need to know how many worms are left in sheep if deaths are to be avoided.

Merry Christmas!