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South Australia worms, flies and lice update - October 2017

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Adelaide: Colin Trengove, Sheep Health Lecturer (UA Roseworthy campus) (

As spring gets into full swing the contrast in seasonal conditions between regions becomes more obvious. While hay making was well underway in late September in the mid/upper north and parts of Eyre Peninsula didn’t have much to cut, parts of the south east were still under water. Thus penning a state of the State report on parasites is at best a rough guide.

That said worm egg counts (WECs or WormTest) in the last month have ranged from 25 to 4525 eggs per gram (epg) in ewe mobs only 20 kilometres (k) apart, and highlights that local circumstances can have as big an impact on worm burdens as seasonal conditions. The high WEC result was thought to be due to Haemonchus (barber’s pole worm), but we normally only expect to see this worm over summer following significant rainfall. However, intense grazing and the reportedly mild winter may have enabled the cold temperature-sensitive eggs to survive long enough to establish significant worm burdens. Similar problems with Haemonchus were observed in the Adelaide Hills with alpacas presenting with severe anaemia resulting from the characteristic blood sucking activities of this worm. In addition, the repercussions of the wet summer are still being felt with the unusually high prevalence of footrot in the mid north, not seen for decades.

Opportunities to predict the likelihood of worm burdens, flystrike and lice would seem a logical extension of the tools we have at our fingertips in these more technologically advanced times. Everybody who wants one has a mobile phone and many have smartphones. As a consequence, the opportunity to find information on the spot has never been better. Whether it is which chemical to use, its withholding period, or the chance of flystrike in the next fortnight, this information is almost a button-push away. ASKBILL is an App developed by Sheep CRC and due for release in early 2018 with the express purpose of enabling producers to use predictive software incorporating climatic data, long term forecasts, soil and pasture inputs plus details of livestock management to assist decision making. It will bring an exciting new dimension to farm management and I expect will be the “tip of the iceberg” in technology at our fingertips.

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