A LIFELINE for Western Australian sheep farmers - in slow-release drench capsule form - is set to be stripped from supplier shelves.
Boehringer Ingelheim announced it would discontinue the Dynamax capsule range - which releases a drench over a 100- day period for worm control - by the end of the year.
The company labelled the decision as strategic in supporting the long-term sustainability of its business.
However, the move has sparked massive concern among sheep farmers, particularly those in high rainfall zones including WA's South West.
Those farmers labelled the capsules as a "game-changer" given just one drench boosted productivity and time management, while offering longer lasting worm burden coverage.
The 'spring loaded' capsules are made up of 10 pill segments and sit in an animal's stomach. Every 10 days, a drench active pill is dissolved and another is released.
Rhodes Pastoral sheep manager and Blackwood SheepMaster owner Phil Corker has found Dynamax to be "the best damn thing since sliced bread" for worm control.
And it comes as no surprise given Mr Corker oversees 50,000-head of sheep and uses about 25,000 capsules across the two farming operations every year.
He said the capsules were a no-brainer and an "absolute lifeline" for anyone working in the sheep industry.
To say he was concerned over the announcement Dynamax would be discontinued would be an understatement.
"I know at roughly $4 a pop people might think the capsules are expensive, but they are easily justified," Mr Corker said.
"$4 is half-a-kilogram of wool or half-a-kilogram of meat at the moment - compared to the benefits and the ease of management with Dynamax.
Mr Corker works with a summer oral drench in November-December and a pre-lambing capsule drench in April-May.
This provides him with 100- odd days coverage and helps with the bigger stress period on ewes during lambing, as well as the onset of green feed when worms hatch.
"Imagine the extra workload my crew would have if I had to do one extra oral drench over 50,000-head of sheep," Mr Corker said.
"This isn't just about time management though, it is also about the animal's welfare."
With limited alternatives on the market, Mr Corker believed there would be extra pressure put onto the drenching program by switching entirely to a one active, long-acting drench.
Last year, he trialled a long-acting needle on 7000-head of ewes, however he did not see the same results and coverage as the capsules.
"I believe it is really difficult to drench big numbers with a needle properly," Mr Corker said.
"I don't think the outcome was the same - I really don't.
"Drench resistance scares me.
"Some people believe capsules increase drench resistance, but I haven't found that in the more than 25 years I've been using them."
Mr Corker has found many benefits in using the capsules including healthier and cleaner sheep.
This has resulted in increased wool and meat value on ewes and also value on lambs.
He hoped another company would pick up the technology in the best interest of the sheep industry as a whole.
"There are three things for my career - if they stopped mulesing I'd be out, if they stopped capsules I'd be out and the other thing is live export," he said.
"Those three things are massive for Merino sheep producers and massive for me and my career.
"You take one of the links out of the chain - it has an impact."
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