SHEEP farmers across Australia are being sought to supply dung for a trial examining different worm drench resistance test methods.
Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) is funding the trial, already started with 15 farmers in the Monaro region of New South Wales, conducted by veterinary consultants Dawbuts Animal Health.
According to AWI, sheep producers spend an estimated $93 million a year in Australia on drenches, but most do not know if the drench is working.
One reason farmers do not drench test is because the traditional test is based on low-sensitivity counts, requiring a mob average of 300 eggs per gram (epg) before it can begin.
If sheep are managed for low worm burdens, the minimum test threshold may not be achieved and leaving sheep until they have higher worm burdens exposes them to the risk of sickness and low production.
With the trial Dawbuts’ veterinary parasitologist Dr Janina McKay-Demeler is comparing performance of four different drench resistance test methods.
Her aim is to clearly show strengths and weaknesses of various approaches to drench testing and to derive a new method based on recently-developed technologies for epg counts and analysis.
A simple and cheap to conduct drench resistance test that provides diagnostic answers that are robust and reliable should be the result, according to AWI.
“We have trialed the Mini-FLOTAC (Italian designed equipment for examining worm egg suspensions more accurately) developed for drench testing in sheep in Europe and the results are impressive,” Dr McKay-Demeler said.
“But it is a different story in Australia with big mob sizes, high levels of some worms such as barber’s pole worm and more advanced drench resistance,” she said.
“This trial covers all of Australia and by this time next year we will be able to analyse how each of the methods performs under real-world conditions.
“The objective is better worm control for Australian sheep producers and that can only improve both welfare and productivity.”
Producers wishing to participate are asked to collect dung samples from a mob of wormy sheep on the day of drenching, then again 14 days after the drench.
Samples are sent to a laboratory and subjected to a four-way analysis.
A traditional worm egg count is compared with an un-drenched control mob to provide a base line.
Then a traditional worm egg count is compared to ‘before’ samples instead of a control mob.
The same comparisons are then conducted using higher sensitivity Mini-FLOTAC worm egg counts instead of traditional egg counts.
There is no cost to be part of the trial and participants will be sent the results of the traditional drench test.
One of the Monaro participants, fine wool producer Nancy Spoljaric, said knowing the resistance status of worms in her sheep provided peace of mind.
“The Monaro is tending towards more dominant summer rainfall, which is facilitating the population growth of barber’s pole worm so we find that this worm is becoming an increasing problem in the area,” Ms Spoljaric said.
“Many of our farmers are seeing anaemia and poor performance in weaners and ewes over the late summer, especially when effective worm control has not been achieved in the spring,” she said.
p For more information or to be a trial participant, contact Dawbuts on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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