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New report lifts the limits on Central Tablelands sheep meat production

New research has been released on how to lift the limits imposed on sheep meat production by gastrointestinal nematode parasites – aka worms!

“The research has clearly shown that ensuring a good feed supply for meat sheep is the best way to prevent worm problems,” said former Local Land Services research officer, Dr Jeff Eppleston, who led the research undertaken on the Central Tablelands.

Pre lambing drenches were also found to be essential on the Central Tablelands.

Research was carried out across 17 commercial properties in the Central Tablelands, the New England and Wagga regions, and in Victoria.  In total 10,000 sheep, on 17 commercial properties, were involved in the project from 2012 to 2015.

‘Lifting the limits imposed by worms on sheep meat production’ is a collaborative report prepared by Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Charles Sturt University, the University of New England, and the University of Melbourne, for Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA). The project was funded by MLA levy payers matched by Commonwealth government funding.

“It has long been known that worm related problems and management result in the highest animal health costs to the Australian meat sheep industry,” explained Jeff Eppleston.

“Integrated regional worm control programs have been developed in the past for merino wool enterprises, but comparatively little attention has been paid to worm control in meat sheep production.”

The ‘Lifting the limits’ (LTL) project looked specifically at meat sheep, comparing the production costs of worms in flocks treated with integrated worm management, against flocks treated by typical industry worm management with a greater reliance on chemical options.

“Critically, integrated worm control can reduce the development of resistance by eliminating unnecessary drench treatments leading to less frequent use of drenches,” said Jeff.

The research found that LTL worm control resulted in significantly lower worm egg counts, achieved with fewer drench treatments and less reliance on long-acting chemical products.  These benefits were most pronounced in areas where Barber’s Pole worm was prevalent.

To maximise worm control the LTL program recommends regular monitoring of worm egg counts, understanding the efficacy of drenches, improving genetic resistance to worms, and importantly, maintaining ewes in good body condition and ensuring prime lamb growth rates are in excess of 200 grams per day before weaning.

Meat-breeds and crossbred genotypes in good condition, grazing on improved pastures, were found to be highly resilient to the impact of worms, showing little effect on ewe and lamb live weight, fleece weight, reproduction or mortality.

Where lamb growth exceeded 200 grams per day, pre weaning drenches had almost no benefits in increasing weaning weight.

Grazing weaners on pastures with a low risk for worms has been identified as another critically important management practice for avoiding worm build up without recourse to blanket anthelmintic treatment.

The research results will now be incorporated into the WormBoss advisory site, reflecting the different recommendations for meat sheep breeds in various geographical regions.

For more information about the ‘Lifting the Limits’ recommendations for sheep meat production on the Central Tablelands, contact Local Land Services Regional Vet, Bruce Watt, on phone 0428 935 559    .

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause | 0439608370