Posted: Wednesday May 27, 2020
A 60% drop in drench usage has led Hamish and Sally Drury to deem FEC testing a ‘not negotiable’ in their sheep and wool operation. We had been drenching 5-6 times annually, but that has been cut to only twice – that equates to a 60% reduction in drench use.
It’s a simple process that allows us to just get on with running our business.
Hamish and Sally Drury run 5000 merino ewes and first-cross progeny in Central West New South Wales where Barber’s Pole is the primary internal parasite.
The introduction of an internet-connected, simple to use Faecal Egg Count (FEC) testing platform has become a ‘not negotiable’ part of their on-farm management.
Drench use has been cut by around 60% and tens of thousands of dollars saved in reduced labour requirements.
The move away from ‘winging it’ to strategic parasite monitoring has transformed the way the Drurys do business.
Together with their two small sons, the Drurys run 5000 predominantly merino ewes and first-cross progeny, as well as 100 head of cattle, as part of Talinga Pastoral near Gulgong in Central West New South Wales.
Twelve years at Talinga has included a mixed experience with internal parasites, namely Barber’s Pole, which has proven problematic over the summer period and has formerly required the flock to be drenched up to six times each year. However, over this time the Drury’s parasite monitoring and treatment has also evolved, moving from a ‘winging it’ mentality to the introduction of an advanced diagnostic platform, FECPAKG2, three years ago.
“Matt Playford from Dawbuts (Australian FECPAKG2 distributor) said this product was coming to Australia and asked us if we wanted to trial it. We did, and we’ve never looked back,” Sally said.
However, it is not merely the hard cost of purchasing drench which has drastically shifted. Sally said time spent handling stock had also been slashed to equate to a substantial saving in labour while creating greater welfare outcomes for the Talinga Pastoral flock.
Hamish and Sally Drury
FECPAKG2 empowers producers to take control of their parasite burdens and livestock performance with a FEC testing system which is simple to use and returns results quickly, to facilitate responsive on-farm decision making. 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 to the cloud for review by qualified technicians. The tests are assessed, worm populations diagnosed and results returned quickly to inform required action.
Sally Drury said the decision to be part of a trial of the New Zealand-developed technology in the Australian market had revolutionised the way Talinga does business.
“We were extremely surprised by the results we have achieved from a time point of view,” Sally said.
“Most of our sheep are 5km from the yards so getting them in and drenching can mean an entire day of work, so the savings in terms of labour time really runs into the tens of thousands.
“Not having to muster as much also means less time the sheep are off feed and water and is less stress on them – now we are happy to be able to just leave them out there grazing.”
The Drurys are easily able to keep a consistent watch on worm populations, by collecting dung samples as they go about their daily on-farm management.
“All of our motorbikes and utes have a small lunch bag for storage so that whenever we move a flock of sheep we can take a simple test – even our boys who are eight and 10 can go out and collect samples for us. We then take the test back to the house, and by the time you have had a cup of coffee it is ready to be loaded into the computer and submitted online for testing, and I usually have those results back within the hour.”
“From there we can immediately see what the worm populations are doing and make an informed decision about if we need to drench.”
The results of this more strategic worm monitoring and management approach are clear.
“We tested our lambs and for some reason the results were high, which gave us the information we needed to decide to drench. A week later we weighed and they had gained an average 450g per day over the course of those seven days.”
The FECPAKG2 platform is also a powerful tool to guard against drench resistance, a problem which has been experienced at Talinga in the past.
“We did have an instance six years ago when we ran a drench trial and found we had developed resistance to one particular drench. We are now much more protected from that because we simply aren’t using as much drench and have made a clear move away from just using whatever we had in the shed.” Sally said.
“FECPAKG2 is now an essential tool in our management. We have an agronomist, we have stock agents, we have vets and now this is another part of that toolbox.”