Test now to maximise weight gain through spring to reduce your grain feeding costs this summer and autumn.
Dry weather in the South West and cold nights with frosts (frozen dog water dishes) is reducing pasture growth rates and causing some concern that we may be in for a failed spring. Surprisingly, egg counts have really spiked this month, as shown by the graph below and I would encourage all producers to continue to monitor stock throughout spring.
Even with good levels of feed in front of ewes, lambs or wethers there will be production losses if worm burdens are high. If the season does cut out early then condition (fat and muscle) will be critical to reduce your reliance on supplementary feed to get sheep through the summer and autumn.
Sheep will often look well and be putting on weight even with a worm burden at this time of year but the level of weight gain will be reduced significantly. Don’t guess; find out what your egg counts are doing on at least some of the high risk mobs, young lambs, weaners and maiden (2 yr old) ewes.
In this area of North Eastern Victoria there was only 3.5 mm of rain in August but 45 mm so far for September. That, plus plenty of rain in July, has helped the grass to grow well. Generally speaking, farmers are reporting that worm egg counts are at moderate levels.
Due to the damp grass the worm larvae will most probably continue to increase to their annual peak around October.
It has been mentioned locally that some farmers have noted tapeworm infections in their sheep. It was reported in the Weekly Times that wild dogs may have caused an outbreak of hydatid tapeworms—these are completely different from the tapeworms seen in sheep faeces. Hydatids can be passed from wild dogs and domestic dogs to sheep and people. Fortunately, the wild dog cull is taking place in this area.
It was also very interesting to note that a new worm drench is soon to be available. The new active ingredient is derquantel (from a new drench group called Spiroindole), coupled with abamectin (macrocyclic lactone (ML) group) and with the brand name of Startect.
Goats now continue to exhibit moderate to high worm egg counts on many farms. Please be aware that most sheep drench products are not registered for use in goats. As worms can pass between goats and sheep it is very important that goat owners do not escalate this situation by using routine sheep drench doses on their animals.
It is also essential to check the drench resistance status of your sheep and know which drenches are working on your property. Then use a drench rotation programme using effective drenches only. It's important not to drench animals unless it is needed.