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Tasmania worms, flies and lice update - December 2015

Perth: Paul Nilon, Nilon Farm Health (pandonilon@bigpond.com)

As the year rapidly winds down it is still dry in Tasmania. A recent ramble in the western lakes showed most at late summer levels and warm enough for a swim. Not a common occurrence.

Most of my time is spent doing feed and supplement budgets as pastures deteriorate rapidly. Those that stalk the BOM website are divided in opinion: glass half empty people point to the SOI; glass half full people take solace in the Madden Julian Oscillation (whatever that may be). Historically, after seasons like we’ve just had it’s unlikely there will be a break before autumn. So I guess that’s a half empty point of view.

The dry produces some interesting social behaviour. There’s a group in the midlands that meet regularly for a burn around on mountain bikes. One of their number is also an ultra-marathoner, who really shines during droughts. Maybe being able to see the rocks improves training performance.

As you would expect, worms are not a major issue. A few high counts out of left field need investigation by larval diff in case they come back as Haemonchus. So the plea is to use the dry to get better worm control than we can usually manage:

  • Clean up permanent pastures with a summer/strategic drench.
  • Look after new fodder crops.
  • Monitor weaners and finishing lambs religiously.

Now, there was some feedback about last month’s article on worms under irrigation. Firstly, I did not give a trigger level to protect pastures and sheep. While I like being deliberately ambivalent (it hides profound ignorance), I will nominate 150epg as a workable trigger. This should protect both the finishing lambs and the pasture. Moreover, it makes us more like the Kiwis, which means we may one day have good rugby in Tasmania.

Secondly, it’s worth doing exit WECs if there has been little monitoring. Even if a drench trigger has not been reached, the contamination laid down by some weeks grazing at high stocking rates (often greater than 60 DSE/Ha) is enormous. An exit WEC will give you an idea of what’s been left behind, and the opportunity to drench to protect the next grazing area. Exit WECs are particularly useful when long acting products expire. Thanks to Bruce Farquharson for these suggestions.

Because it’s been dry, but not humid, fly activity has been low. Crutchers are busy in the run up to Christmas. If sheep are crutched you may get away without a fly preventive. The decision depends partly on your attitude to risk and, importantly, your resources to monitor mobs and to get them in to treat if you have problems.

Have a happy Christmas and New Year, and here’s hoping that you need the tractor to pull the ute from the bog, rather than the cows from the waterholes.

Paul Nilon