We are now at the tail-end of the coldest winter in many years. Large areas of the State were covered twice by big snow events and I suspect there have been in excess of 40 frosts. Importantly, it has remained very dry. Many stock are losing weight and although there are palpable signs of spring (blossom, and the median strip of our driveway is now growing and needing 1 mowing every 10 days) it’s uncertain if there is sufficient subsoil moisture to sustain a reasonable spring.
The good news is that lambing is in full swing, and WECs have, on the whole, remained low. Only a handful of prime lamb clients have missed a pre-lamb drench. These guys (and girls) are in the fortunate position of having low counts and requisite feed requirements for lambing ewes. Although many merino flocks have low counts they are nutritionally stressed enough to justify a drench. A few early-marked mobs have avoided a marking drench, but do not assume this applies to you.
Merino hoggets often blow out in late winter/early spring. Many years I am happy to let the counts climb a bit in anticipation of the sheep developing immunity. When the spring is tight it’s probably best to use conservative triggers as poorly nourished sheep may struggle to throw off their worm burdens.
While not privy to the sales figures, I am guessing that capsules have been used by many in the run-up to lambing. Apart from keeping sheep in good worm-shape well into spring, the lack of egg output should build on the low worm status started by the dry times. Standard rec. is to test capsuled mobs at 30, 60 and 90 days after administration.
With the capsules have come at least 2 cases of Jackaroo’s disease: the maladministration of capsules where they are pushed through the back of pharynx and lodge in the soft tissues between the oesophagus and the underside of the spine. Affected sheep have a ghastly death from soft tissue damage and infection/toxaemia. Experienced capsulers know when they are in the right place: the sheep swallows and the capsule gun goes in its full length without any resistance. Apart from being gentle, the trick is to extend the neck so that the head and neck are continuous in a straight line. Any downwards or sideways flexion of the head relative to the neck can cause problems. If you have not done it, get an experienced operator to show you. Furthermore, in the few days after treatment check all mobs for sheep salivating and with cud staining around the mouth.