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Tasmania worms, flies and lice update - May 2016

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

A long held ambition is to travel in Mongolia. It seemed a real possibility last month when airfares became unnecessary as this picture from Oatlands in the lower midlands shows.


Oatlands is looking like the steppes of Mongolia
Oatlands is looking like the steppes of Mongolia

Fans of ABC news love Alan Kohler’s arcane graphs: “This graph shows the relationship between the price of iron ore, and the packets of crisps in shopping baskets, which proves that chips contain iron, which must be good for you.” Well, the following pic shows what is responsible for the massive turnaround in Tasmania’s pasture fortunes in the last 3 weeks. The wild seas on the west coast were whipped up by endless westerly gales whose embedded cold fronts have dumped between 50 and 100 mm of rain over most sheep producing areas. Lack of beautiful, warm and wind free autumn weather is a small price for decent rain.


The wild seas on the west coast have brought good rain
The wild seas on the west coast have brought good rain

Even the lower midlands have received a deal. The upper Fingal Valley and east coast have not had so much, but have hung on better from the January/March falls than most other areas. Despite the winds (and even a few road closures due to snow) it is still unseasonably warm, so pastures are bounding away. Many clients have sheep feed. Cattle feed is way more problematic, but if the frosts stay away and soil temperatures remain in the low to mid-teens as they are now, pastures should keep growing well.

Not surprisingly, worms are still quiet. Most perennial pastures are well and truly decontaminated for a change, which augurs well for a worm-free winter. As always, monitor closely and drench to the recommended triggers (see the drench decision guide).

Clients who Smart-Graze have stocked these paddocks or are about to. In “normal” years, the Smart-Grazed paddocks would remain destocked until the autumn break. This year there was the false break in January and rather than waste the feed that resulted Smart-Grazers wanted to stock them. This is not an issue, provided the sheep going onto the paddocks are worm free (so happened that when it was obvious the season was relapsing, it was a good time for a second summer drench), and are not grazed beyond the pre-patent period so no contamination goes on the pasture (say, 25–28 days).

Finally, a reminder about drench tests. If you want a mix of worm species for the test, mid-May till mid-June is a good time. This year the problem may be getting sufficient eggs to do a test, so make sure you get a surveillance count done before setting up the test. I like more than 400 epg, but you can get by with 300. Use a lab or consultant happy to do larval diffs. Lastly, drench to individual weights, not the heaviest in the mob.