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Greg and Kathie Tighe, Guyra NSW (2018)

Implementing WormBoss in New England, NSW

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.

Greg and Kathie Tighe and Don Macarthur at the first New England WormBoss PDS workshop in 2016
Greg and Kathie Tighe and Don Macarthur at the first New England WormBoss PDS workshop in 2016

Greg and Kathie Tighe have made worm management a priority for many years, with Kathie doing worm egg counts on the many mobs they run on their property, Kelso, between Guyra and Inverell, where they run about 3000 sheep, as well as cattle.

In 2016, with their manager Don Macarthur, they took up the challenge to implement the WormBoss program across more of their mobs as they were seeing signs of worms more often than they liked.

The long preparation period for lambing paddocks presented quite a bit of difficulty. Greg said, “The recent years have been very dry and we needed to use the feed in the paddocks being prepared and in some paddocks the sheep became wormier sooner than expected, which affected preparation.”

Despite the difficulties, Greg said that they were continuing to prepare low worm-risk lambing paddocks, aiming for 100%.

“Weaning paddocks were much easier to prepare,” said manager, Don Macarthur. “There’s a shorter preparation period of 3 months, compared to 6 for lambing paddocks and there’s typically more feed around before weaning.

“But mistakes can happen. We did have a mix up putting weaners onto a dirty paddock with good feed once, so we’ve found that good communication is essential when you have a number of staff.”

Don has found it useful to have reminders on his phone for when sheep need to be moved out of a paddock in the preparation phase and they keep a board with information on it that everyone can see.

For years, Kathie has done worm egg counts herself to monitor worm burdens and as the basis for most of their drenching decisions, excluding planned drenches at lambing and marking.

“While it does take time to collect samples from our numerous mobs,” said Kathie, “doing the tests is fairly quick as I have all the equipment set up permanently. Sometimes it’s harder to get enough sample off the ground from weaners, and in this drought getting clean dirt-free samples is a challenge.” 

Don has also taken on some of the worm testing duties now, he said, “We tend to test initially about 3 to 4 weeks after a drench, and then we go further weeks based on what that last count was. Often, especially during drier weather, the egg count reassures us that a drench is not required. We need to know what’s going on, because it’s difficult to quickly drench a few thousand sheep if you’ve let the worms get ahead.

Greg said, “Doing the DrenchTest on the individual drench actives was fairly easy and very useful and we’ll be doing another test after we get some rain. We nearly always use a combination drench and price never gets in the way of making the right drench choice now we know what does and doesn’t work.”

The Tighe’s have also used Barbervax® for a few years. Kathie said, “We were having barber’s pole worm problems because of drench resistance and so we’ve tried to preserve the drenches that were still useful by using Barbervax.

“It has been useful, particularly with the hoggets, but we’ve had some variable results with ewes. We need to weigh up the expense and the labour to decide whether we continue using it, as we are also getting better at preparing the lambing and weaning paddocks and we are making gains from breeding worm resistant sheep,” said Kathie.

They all felt fairly confident in their worm control program, especially in drier times, and that participation in the WormBoss project had been quite helpful.