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Tasmania worms, flies and lice update - October 2014

Perth: Paul Nilon, Nilon Farm Health (

Sometimes, you get things wrong. Not just a bit, but quite wrong. In the last missive I suggested that much of Tasmania was OK, but within a day of posting a few of my clients contacted to say that it was far from OK. Things are good north of a line through Epping Forest, but very tight in the Campbell Town and Oatlands areas, and downright disheartening on the east coast. While large rain events can occur any month, dry September/October is a good predictor of a dry summer.

Parasitically, things have slowed right down. Some mobs are quite daggy as the Trichs have their last hurrah for the season, but the counts have been manageable, and in spite of the modest spring, residual body condition has ensured the ewes have milked well and the lambs look fine.

If you are running out of green tucker think carefully about an early weaning to make sure the lambs get first dibs on the best pasture. The standard recommendation is 13 weeks after the start of lambing (assuming a 5 week lambing spread). This is a good target for those inclined to leave the lambs with their mothers until they are just about to cut their teeth. For those who usually wean at 13 weeks consider moving it forward by 2–3 weeks, provided you have green feed. The weaning drench is then an early summer drench, which in a year like this is a good idea.

Some thoughts on fly control: large numbers of Tassie lambs are routinely jetted at weaning. This is a hangover from merino days when heavily skinned merino lambs (many had arses like screwed-up tennis shoes) would attract flies like the little yellow pots we used to nail to fence posts. This measure was robust because of Vetrazin’s endless life, and it allowed farmers to attend to important things like irrigating poppies and chasing the dun hatches on the central plateau lakes.

For prime lambs it’s frequently unnecessary and may complicate marketing. The big issues are observing WHI and ESI, as well as removing a cost. A risk management approach addresses this. The first step is getting good worm control. Next, consider a weaning crutch or even moving shearing forward depending on skin value and expected time to finishing. Finally, factor in what the season is doing: last spring was prodigiously wet and so flies were always going to be an issue. If you decide to treat, consider if you will do the whole lot, or the tail which will be longer getting to market.

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