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Sheep & their Management Project - Improved parasite management

Project Leader
Dr Brown Besier
Department of Agriculture & Food, Western Australia
Tel: 08 9892 8470

About the Project

This Project aims to develop and promote strategies identified as essential to ensure efficient and sustainable parasite management in the Australia sheep industry.


To develop for different environments the “targeted treatment” concept of ensuring a sustainable basis to routine worm control recommendations by limiting drenching to animals identified as likely to benefit from treatment, so that a source of non-anthelmintic resistant worms (in "regugia") is continually present on sheep properties.

To ensure easy access by producers to current and environment-specific parasite management recommendations and information developed by national panels of specialists, through websites ("WormBoss", "FlyBoss" and "LiceBoss") and other communication channels.

To quantify genetic relationships between traits of significance for sheep parasite management and ensure that these are appropriately incorporated into selection indices.

Business Case

The business case for this project is based on delivery Outcome 3 – Improved parasite control and more effective use of chemicals. Improved disease control and reduced chemical will reduce costs, reduce chemical residues and protect markets, through use of new detection and management tools is expected to result in 10% increase in productivity on 30% of farms.


Efficient and sustainable parasite control is a fundamental basis for the long-term profitability and sustainability of the Australian sheep industry. The CRC intends to target three high-priority strategies for increasing the contribution of efficient parasite management to the profitability of sheep enterprises.

Firstly, research into “targeted treatment” of worm-affected sheep will ensure that producers can incorporate sustainability into worm control program, with the bonus of increased labour and cost efficiencies. Under this concept, drench treatments are targeted only to individual animals within a flock (“scour worm” situations) or to specific flocks (Haemonchus situations) identified as less resilient to worm infections, so that a proportion of animals on the property are not exposed to anthelmintics. As a source of non-resistant worms (in “refugia”) is continually present, this reduces the development of anthelmintic resistance with little need for complex resistance management planning. As an additional benefit, the requirement for drenching effort and expenditure is reduced, hence reducing some perceived limitations for producers’ enthusiasm for running sheep.

Secondly, the increasingly urgent need to ensure that independent and current advice on parasite control is easily available to sheep producers indicates a central role for the CRC as a national collator and disseminator of information. The successful WormBoss website will be enhanced and further promoted to industry, and a new “FlyBoss” website developed. This will address the complex decisions on blowfly strike management necessary in an environment where mulesing is no longer available and pesticide residue restrictions apply. The operation of both WormBoss and FlyBoss require national agreement on technical issues by specialists, and the CRC’s coordinating role will be pivotal in increasing the relevance and quality of parasite management, and in engaging the wider industry support sector in its promotion.

Thirdly, longer term genetic solutions to worm problems will be investigated as part of Information Nucleus flock research, by measuring a range of parasite-related traits and their correlations with a wide range of production parameters. The efficiencies and side-effects of selection for various traits will be identified, so that optimal selection indices for different environments and production systems can be developed.