The New England WormBoss Producer Demonstration Site project was run from 2016 to 2019 and was funded under Meat and Livestock Australia’s Producer Demonstration Site Program. The project directly assisted producers to implement the WormBoss program and let other local producers watch on and see the results.
Alan and Kim Newton run the 460-hectare property, Wondilla, north west of Emmaville. Being on the north western reaches of the New England Tableland they experience all the problems of barber’s pole worm without the benefit of an extended cold period that would stop worm development for a few months.
They joined the WormBoss project to improve worm control in their prime lamb operation, in which they join 850 first cross ewes to Poll Dorset rams.
Their first job was a drench resistance test. Kim said, “We found it fairly easy to do though it does take a bit of time, but the results were very useful as we now know quite a few drenches are not as effective as we had hoped.”
Alan said, “We hadn’t done a comprehensive test like this before because we didn’t know what was involved and didn’t realise what it could tell us; we’ll be doing another one soon to see how our remaining drenches are going.”
Alan and Kim have about 40% of their country cropped with lucerne, oats and beans, with the balance being native pastures oversown with clovers. They attempted to prepare low worm-risk paddocks for both their weaners and their lambing ewes.
Alan said, “We found preparing weaning paddocks fairly easy as it fits with our cropping operations and we’ll continue this with 100% of those paddocks, as it’s very useful. But we just couldn’t prepare lambing paddocks because we needed to graze our lucerne at critical times during the preparation period.”
The Newtons also use Barbervax® vaccine. “We had a lot of barbers’ pole worm problems because we didn’t realise the extent of drench resistance until we did the DrenchTest. Barbervax has been very useful and takes a lot of pressure off those drenches. I think it also helps the sheep to develop their own resistance too, because they are not being quickly overwhelmed by worms,” said Alan.
Deb Maxwell, ParaBoss Executive Officer, and manager of the project, said, “Immunity developed from Barbervax is a little different from the natural immunity a sheep builds to barber’s pole worms because they are being exposed to different antigens, but while ever they get a low continual challenge, which Barbervax allows, they can build their own immunity as well.”
Kim said, “We regularly do worm egg counts and it’s always the basis of our drenching decisions. But getting samples to the post office from here is inconvenient and then it takes a couple of days in the post to get to the lab, so we do about 80% of the tests on farm and of course that’s also a big cost saving and we have an immediate result.
“We often test and find a drench isn’t needed, so we’re confident that we can do other jobs instead of drenching and know there’s no immediate problem.”
Alan and Kim also breed for worm resistance to help lambs get through to sale weights with the least worm issues. They buy replacement ewes with unknown resistance, but their Poll Dorset rams are all at least -30 for Worm Egg Count ASBV.
“We buy from a New England breeder whose sheep are not only highly resistant to worms, but also have great breeding values for growth and birth weight,” said Alan.
Alan and Kim found that participation in the project was quite helpful and that they were now fairly confident they could cost-effectively control worms in their sheep.