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Grazing management

Effective grazing management reduces the exposure of sheep to worms. This involves

  • avoiding paddocks heavily contaminated with worm larvae
  • reducing contamination of paddocks with worm eggs
  • allowing time for most of the eggs and larvae on the pasture to die

How are low worm‐risk weaner paddocks prepared?

Weaners are the class of sheep most susceptible to worms, especially when they go through their first winter. Paddocks used by weaners in late autumn and winter should be of the highest quality pasture as the first priority, ideally they should also be of low worm-risk. Pastures grazed after the autumn break (the weaners’ first winter) should be the lowest worm-risk on the farm. This will give weaners a good start, in many cases allowing them to build immunity without suffering high initial worm burdens.

On winter weaner paddocks, contamination from worm eggs arises from two key periods. Most contamination occurs in late summer and autumn, however about 40% can come from worm egg deposition during late spring and early summer. Routinely giving a summer drench in November/December greatly reduces the late spring/early summer contamination.

To prepare a winter weaner paddock

Prepare these by the ‘Smart grazing’ method*:

The paddock(s) that will be used by weaners after the autumn break should previously only be grazed by sheep that have received an effective summer drench, or adult cattle (over 12 months old). To minimise contamination with worm eggs, graze with sheep for up to 30 days after a short-acting drench. A similar stocking rate to continuous stocking will be achieved by stocking at 2½–3 times your normal stocking rate.

If there is excess feed, the summer drenches can be ‘staggered’ for different mobs so as to provide a longer intensive grazing period, as removing excess feed enhances the kill of worm larvae with summer heat.

Give the weaners an effective drench before they enter the ‘Smart grazed’ paddock after the autumn break.

*‘Smart grazing’ is a specific effective strategy developed by the Mackinnon Project, University of Melbourne, in Victoria: see article ‘Smart grazing for weaner worm control’ at Appendices: Further information on sheep worm control for Tasmania.

To prepare a low worm­‐risk late spring or summer weaning paddock

  • In January, choose the paddocks you will use for weaning next spring/summer.
  • From the autumn break minimize contamination of weaning paddocks by using one or more of the following strategies to prepare the weaning paddock:
    • Keep the paddocks sheep-free: spell, graze with cattle to prevent the pasture becoming rank or use paddocks to grow crops or hay.
    • Graze with sheep only in the 0–30 days after they receive a drench known to be effective on your property.
    • Graze with dry sheep over two years old in good condition (this strategy is less effective than the two points above).

How are low worm­‐risk lambing paddocks prepared?

Graze the most susceptible lambing ewes (maidens, oldest ewes and earlier lambing ewes) on the least contaminated lambing paddocks. Use WormTest results from the autumn and winter to estimate likely paddock contamination.

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