Lewis Kahn, Associate Professor Animal Science, University of New England
We all know there are two types of concerns for sheep producers. Those that are outside our control and those that are within our control. It’s common to focus on those concerns outside our control because, given we can’t do anything about them, there is no extra work and it’s a scapegoat that dominates our conversation.
Think about issues like the weather and prices for sheep and wool. It’s natural to think this way but there’s not much we can do to influence these factors: so why do we do it? Now if you want to remove all those outside issues and concentrate on controllable issues – (feeling better already?) - one of the big issues is worm control.
Some benchmarking groups have shown that the differences between most and least profitable sheep businesses has almost nothing to do with differences in prices received. It’s mostly to do with on-farm productivity, in other words producing more commodity and in so doing reducing the cost per unit of that commodity.
Worms are a major reason for low productivity, either through deaths or production loss. Sheep produce less wool, meat and lambs from what they consume at pasture when they have worms. Worms make sheep less efficient and sheep death has a big impact on efficiency.
In a trial conducted over two years, on six farms with 1440 Merino ewes in the New England region of NSW, good worm control – using the WormBoss regional program – reduced the annual cost of worms by $5.20 per ewe.
Let’s think about this in terms of efficiency and productivity. Traditional ways of managing worms meant a producer spent $2.00/ewe to control worms: mostly as drench but worms still reduced income by $11.00/ewe. The WormBoss regional program cost more, at $3.25/ewe to control worms (because of the cost of monitoring worm egg count and if drenches were effective) but worms only reduced income by $5.80: delivering the $5.20 advantage to WormBoss. Spending more on worm control meant the total cost of worms reduced, delivering improvements in efficiency and productivity.
Who would have thought that worm control was a major driver of sheep productivity and that WormBoss regional programs provide a way to do something about an issue which is within our control? Visit www.wormboss.com.au