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Third time lucky for lice battle

Kate MatthewsCountryman
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Lice are a major problem across the State for wool growers, but Nathan Brown, who runs 9300 Merinos, eradicating the problem requires a strategic approach.

Three years ago, lice started to build up in Mr Brown’s Boonoke West commercial flock due to chemical breakdown and infestations elsewhere in the flock.

In the first season, a new product was tried, but with no positive outcome.

For the second season, another new product was tried. It seemed to slow the lice down, but not eradicate them.

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It was a case of third time lucky the following year when Bayer’s new chemistry backliner Avenge helped do the trick.

“Getting the right chemical is a small part, but I still put a lot down to management, ” Mr Brown said.

“You need the right application rate, it has to be applied correctly, you have to check each sheep, check there are no woollies left and shear everything at the same time.

“Avenge has four-week residue after shearing, so we make a special point to check sheep two days after shearing so we can pick up any missed woolly ones.”

Last year, Mr Brown said his classer estimated a third to half of his wool cut was cotted compared to a clean clip this season.

To stay ahead of lice, Mr Brown said next year they would shear cull ewe hoggets two to three weeks earlier before the main shearing and would determine which product to use depending on lice comb scrapping results.

If lice counts are below 5 per cent, Zap will most probably be used, but if its near zero, they will keep testing and use Avenge or another new product every third year.

“We won’t wait until we have a problem and will use a chemical every year, ” Mr Brown said.

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