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New England WormBoss Program: Andrew Fittler, Armidale NSW

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.

Managing over 7500 hectares, carrying almost 30,000 sheep and 1000 cattle before the drought, Andrew Fittler can’t afford complacency with barber’s pole worms on Warrane, one of the holdings owned by MH Premium Farms.

Andrew has managed the property since 2014 and needed to quickly get on top of barber’s pole worms in their superfine Merino operation.

Andrew had carried out a Drench Test previously, as well as the comprehensive one at the beginning of the WormBoss project and will continue them each 3 years to monitor the effectiveness of drenches. Andrew said, “They are very useful—essential really—and for any properties with scale the costs and time involved are a drop in the ocean. I find them pretty easy to do.

“We also do regular worm egg counts to make our drench decisions. With so many sheep we do occasionally see ones that appear to have worms, so we also WormTest these to be sure it’s worms,” said Andrew, who does some of the worm egg counts on farm as well as using a local laboratory.

Where some of the other project co-operators found preparing low worm-risk lambing paddocks difficult, but weaning paddocks easy because of their cropping operations, it’s the opposite on Warrane.

Preparing low worm-risk lambing paddocks for many thousands of ewes is a mammoth task, but Andrew found the solution that suited their operation was to use a long acting product during the early preparation period.

Andrew said, “Since MH Premium farms only bought Warrane in 2014, development and fencing improvements are still occurring and I can’t yet guarantee that lambing paddocks are kept free of sheep for the critical March and April period—and with drought we also wanted to use these paddocks at the time. I’ve found that I can use long acting moxidectin injection given with an effective primer drench to sheep just before this time and be confident that I can use those paddocks then, not worry about some straying from a nearby paddock and I’ve got low worm pastures for my ewes to lamb in during spring.

“It’s easy to manage, but you do need to monitor and know, from testing, that the product is effective on your property for the length of time required.”

Conversely, without the benefit of the long acting product, weaning paddock preparation is difficult. “It still comes down to keeping sheep out of the paddocks, which can still be a problem, and we’ve really been needing to best utilise the feed in them during this drought,” said Andrew, “so I’m only sometimes successful with these paddocks. I will keep trying with all the weaning paddocks, and I expect when we have better seasons that the flexibility with more feed will give better results.”

Andrew also uses Barbervax®. “We do have drench resistance here, so we need a variety of strategies to manage barber’s pole worms. I’ve found Barbervax to be very useful and will continue to use it.”

Currently, breeding for worm resistance is not a focus, “I’d like to do it, but we are getting good genetics from one of our company directors at a good price, but they don't have the ASBVS,” said Andrew.

“Despite the large operation and its challenges, I’ve found the WormBoss project to be very helpful and I’ve learned quite a lot. I’m now very confident that a cost-effective worm control program is in place on Warrane.”

There are five case studies about the experiences of producers implementing the WormBoss program:

Andrew Fittler, Armidale, NSW

Greg and Kathie Tighe, Guyra, NSW

Alan and Kim Newton, Emmaville, NSW

Murray Nielsen, Guyra, NSW

Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson, Guyra, NSW