SHEEP producers generally do not worm farm dogs regularly enough to break the lifecycle of tapeworms (Taenia ovis) and prevent costly sheep measles.
That was the finding of a recent survey collaboration between Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Charles Sturt University.
Dr Patrick Kluver of the Livestock Biosecurity Network (LBN) said the survey showed that on average sheep producers worm farm dogs about twice a year
"The hard reality is that we need to be treating all dogs on the property with a tape wormer containing Praziquantel once a month, as the parasite lifecycle is 35 days," Dr Kluver said.
"The old recommendation for controlling hydatids of worming every six weeks is probably also too long for effective sheep measles control," he said.
Dr Kluver said three dog tapeworms have a life cycle that includes sheep hydatids, sheep measles and bladder worm.
"Economically, the most important is sheep measles which affects the majority of properties in all sheep regions in Australia.
"It is estimated to cost the sheep industry millions of dollars every year," he said.
Financial losses occur when infected sheep were processed.
Lesions occurred in the sheep's heart and diaphragm which were condemned.
Lesions found in the carcase were usually trimmed but if there were more than five, the whole carcase was condemned, Dr Kluver said.
Affected carcasses were diverted to a less valuable frozen product.
In dogs, the sheep measles tapeworm can measure up to two metres long, it can start to produce eggs within 32-35 days and the eggs can contaminate a large area, thought to be several kilometres.
Dr Kluver said farmers who had a sheep measles problem should talk to their neighbours about tapeworm control as well.
Good on-farm biosecurity ensured all dogs coming onto the property with hunters, contractors, shearers and visitors, have been wormed with praziquantel in the previous month, or they are kept tethered away from pasture.
"It's important to take a long-term view to controlling sheep measles - the tapeworm eggs can survive for up to 300 days on pasture and once a sheep is infected, the cysts are there for life," Dr Kluver said.
He said there were three steps to controlling worms.
Treat all dogs monthly with a wormer containing praziquantel, every three months substitute a praziquantel-only treatment for an all-wormer containing praziquantel and remove raw sheep meat and offal from their diets.
The LBN is an independent industry initiative established by the Cattle Council of Australia, Sheepmeat Council of Australia and WoolProducers Australia to better prepare Australia's livestock industries to manage biosecurity risks.