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Just how good is your advice?

Sheep producers occasionally ask neighbours and friends their opinion on sheep parasite control, but how does the ‘advice’ given really stack up?

It is well known that sheep producers value the opinions of other producers, and this is used to advantage in facilitated groups, because sheep producers have many valuable experiences to share. But if there is no-one to validate information shared by producers—or anyone else for that matter—it can get passed on as gospel.

Recently, someone new to the sheep industry told me of the advice he got from two neighbours, both experienced sheep producers.

The first neighbour, who had lousy sheep for some time, claimed that lice are spread between properties by wallabies. He decided to go out of sheep and built a dip to clean up the lice before he sold the sheep. He built an above-ground, tin-sheet dip just a few metres or so long to treat his lousy sheep before selling them.

So are wallabies an issue? No. Lice are quite host-specific and only transfer to other sheep on close contact. If lice were spread by wildlife, it would be virtually impossible for any property to be free from lice, yet many properties have been so for years, and without any treatments being applied. The short dip—just a few metres long—probably wouldn’t work as extensive research by NSW DPI showed how difficult it is to completely wet shorn sheep when trying to eradicate lice. So, a long, 9-metre swim—with double dunking—is recommended for straight plunge dips.

In the second story, which relates to the other neighbour, I will use commercial product names in order to clearly illustrate the misinformation.

The man new to the industry had been using Q-Drench and Nilverm, and he asked his second neighbour what he thought of these for barber’s pole worm control. The neighbour responded that Nilverm was no good and Q-Drench had become less effective, but he was instead using Avomec Duel with good effect, however, it didn’t kill liver fluke.

Again, there are problems with this neighbourly opinion. Firstly, getting advice from anyone about what drench works for them is largely useless to you. Drench resistance profiles of neighbouring farms often have little in common, because they have different drench histories. Drenches have been used at different times and with different frequencies and sheep have come from different places, each with a different mix of resistant worms.

Consider levamisole, the active ingredient in Nilverm. On my own property, it is 100% effective against barber’s pole worm, yet others nearby have had resistance to it appear recently, whereas for some it had lost efficacy years ago.

The second issue is in not understanding the chemical groups to which drenches belong.

Again, from the example, Avomec Duel has two actives: abamectin and closantel, but Q-Drench has the same two, plus two more: levamisole and albendazole, both from different groups. So, contrary to what the neighbour said, Q-Drench will be more effective where resistant worms are present because fewer worms are able to resist its 4-active combination than the 2-active combination in Avomec Duel.

The third piece of misinformation is about liver fluke treatment. Both Q-Drench and Avomec Duel contain closantel, which targets adult liver fluke and immature stages from 6 weeks old.

These are just recent examples of the type of misinformation I’ve heard over the years given by one producer to another—albeit given with good intentions. Of course, this is not an issue confined to sheep producers, it’s the same in all walks of life. Even people with great knowledge and experience don’t always get it right.

Here at ParaBoss, we urge you to seek advice from independent, credible and well-proven sources. The information published on the Boss sites is validated through on-property trials and the scrutiny of people with years of varied experience across many properties and situations. It’s thrashed around in discussions to find flaws and exceptions, and is tried and proven with objective measures of its worth before it is published.

We also recognise that people have different styles of learning. Some prefer to read, while others learn from one-on-one conversations (we've tried to reflect that in our online learning too). While ParaBoss can’t provide that one-on-one advice to producers, there are many professionals—parasitologists, consultants, vets, and sheep extension officers—who are well versed in the technical detail on the Boss sites. In fact, many of them are or have been contributors to our information. Increasingly, there are also others such as rural resellers, who have been ParaBoss-trained.

So, when it comes to advice, whether giving or taking it, ask yourself how well it stands up to objective scrutiny.