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Grazing systems and worm control in sheep: a long-term case study involving three management systems with analysis of factors influencing faecal worm egg count

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 04:50 authored by Walkden-Brown, SW, Colvin, AF, Hall, E, Knox, MR, Mackay, DF, Scott, JM

Managing infections of sheep with gastrointestinal nematode parasites (worms) and problems of resistance to anthelmintic treatments continue to be major challenges for graziers on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales, Australia. The whole-farmlet study of grazing enterprises undertaken by the Cicerone Project tested the broad hypotheses that compared with typical management (farmlet B), internal parasites can be more effectively managed with improved nutrition (farmlet A) or by intensive rotational grazing (farmlet C). Further aims were to identify the major sources of variation in faecal worm egg count (WEC) over the 6-year period and to examine the efficacy of the various anthelmintic treatments used during the experiment. This paper describes the management of sheep worms at the whole-farmlet level during the experiment, and analyses data from the routine WEC monitoring (5644 records) and larval differentiation tests (322 records) carried out on behalf of the Cicerone Management Board and by a doctoral candidate. It complements more detailed investigations published elsewhere.

Over the period from July 2000 to December 2006, worm infections in ewes, lambs, hoggets and wethers were, with some exceptions, successfully controlled on the farmlets through a combination of regular monitoring of WEC, treatment with a wide array of anthelmintics and grazing management. Farmlet C had lower mean WEC (444 epg) and annual anthelmintic treatment frequency (3.1 treatments/year) over the whole experimental period than farmlets B (1122 epg, 4.3 treatments/year) or A (1374 epg, 4.7 treatments/year). The main factors influencing WEC were the time since the last anthelmintic treatment, and the anthelmintic used at that treatment. The magnitude of these effects dwarfed those of climatic and management factors that might be expected to influence the epidemiology of gastrointestinal nematode infections via environmental or host-mediated mechanisms. Nevertheless management factors associated with stocking rate and grazed proportion (proportion of each farmlet grazed at any one time), and climatic indicators of both temperature and moisture availability had significant effects on WEC.

The results show that, in a region with Haemonchus contortus as the major sheep nematode, improved host nutrition in a higher input system (farmlet A) did not provide more effective control of gastrointestinal nematodes than typical management (farmlet B); however, it was observed that gastrointestinal nematode control was no worse on farmlet A than on farmlet B in spite of farmlet A supporting a 48% higher stocking rate by later in the trial period (2005). The study provided strong support for the proposition that intensive rotational grazing (farmlet C) provides more effective control of gastrointestinal nematodes than typical management (farmlet B) as evidenced by significantly lower WEC counts and anthelmintic treatment frequency. Tactical worm control based on routine monitoring of WEC provided adequate control of worms on all three farmlets for much of the experimental period but failed to prevent significant spikes in WEC to values associated with significant production loss on multiple occasions, and significant ewe mortality on farmlets A and B on one occasion.


Publication title

Animal Production Science










Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


CSIRO Publishing

Place of publication

Locked Bag 10 Clayton, VIC 3169 Australia

Rights statement

Journal compilation copyright CSIRO 2013

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Sheep for meat

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