CHRIS HALLETT

CHRIS HALLETT

FEC technology, an unrealised opportunity for beef producers

Posted: Wednesday May 27, 2020

KEY POINTS

Hallett has approximately 100,000 cows under care across three practices in New South Wales.

Internal parasites can reduce performance in beef cattle by up to 300g/head/day to delay turnoff by 30 to 40 days.

New technology allows even small, but detrimental worms to be detected.

Targeted diagnostics allow more strategic drench use to improve performance and save on costs.

Greater insights mean more informed decisions, greater production and greater sustainability for a higher-performing beef industry.

 

A respected livestock veterinarian says the Australian beef industry could simply, yet substantially improve animal wellbeing and performance by integrating a new generation of Faecal Egg Count (FEC) technology that can diagnose internal parasite levels which previously went undetected.

Chris Hallett, who has around 100,000 breeders under care across three practices in New South Wales, is advising beef clients to embrace FEC testing and targeted worm management, which was once considered more beneficial to sheep production than cattle.

“The successful use of FEC testing was restricted for cattle in the past because the technology was not strong enough to hone in on populations that were much lower than what you would detect in a sheep, but which still had potential to have a significant effect on the herd,” Dr Hallett said.

 

EASY TO USE TESTING PLATFORM

Dr Hallett uses, and recommends to his clients, the FECPAKG2 online diagnostics platform to easily measure internal parasite populations. Far more insightful, yet simple, than the old microscope-based method, FECPAKG2 includes the collection of dung samples of which images are taken and uploaded (either at a vet practice, rural retailer or on-farm) for review by qualified technicians. The tests are assessed, pest populations diagnosed, and results returned quickly to inform drenching action.

Developed by New Zealand company, Techion, the platform has already helped livestock producers across New Zealand and the United Kingdom to achieve measurable improvements in performance and production efficiency.

“We estimate parasite burdens can stifle weight gain by 100g-300g per head, per day which can equate to a difference in time of turn-off of 30 to 40 days, and that means a lot to a beef business.

“Once we show producers how to use the platform they quickly become very familiar with the process and are surprised by the insights and information we are able to provide, and how much better their herd could be performing,” Dr Hallett said.

 

INSIGHTS TO OPTIMISE DRENCH USE

The internal parasites most prevalent across the areas Dr Hallett’s practices cover include Ostertagia, Trichostrongylus, Haemonchus and Cooperia with stock traditionally administered two to three drenches on ‘gut feel’ in the first 18 months of life, primarily during winter and spring. However, Dr Hallett said faecal counts can now better support producers to optimise drench use.

“The information we now have at hand helps to ensure females achieve a critical mating weight before joining, helps us to better stay on top of parasites in young cattle going onto crops or, if cattle are headed for feedlots or abattoirs, allows us to make sure that process is not slowed down due to worm burdens,”

Optimisation of drench use, and treating worms in accordance with a verified diagnosis, can also play a major role in guarding against potential resistance

Dr Hallett said his practices were encouraging clients to make faecal testing a core part of their husbandry regime that is integrated with other activities, to eliminate unnecessary stock handling.

“We want to have completed a FEC test a few days before cattle come through the yard for other reasons like preg-testing, so that we can make the decision about whether we drench them then as well.”

Better utilisation of supplementary feeding during the severe and wide-reaching drought which has struck vast areas of eastern Australia has also emerged as a key benefit of consistent parasite monitoring.

“If parasites are present, cattle are not able to properly utilise what they are given, so it’s costing them much more than it should to get them to the level they need to be.”

While worms may not kill cattle like they do sheep, they absolutely do halter or suppress the optimum health and potential of an animal. 

Advances now mean we are able to detect down to 10 eggs per gram, which are levels that may seem low but can definitely hold cattle back.  For an extended period of time we have had an overreliance on backlining drenches.


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