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Effective sheep lice management questions answered by Coopers Animal Health

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article image Prevent devaluation of sheep hide by using an effectice lice management plan

With approximately 30% of sheep flocks infested with lice at any one time, lice are of major concern to the Australian sheep industry.  Coopers Animal Health answers some questions about sheep lice and their treatment and offer a 10 step lice management plan.  

Q. What are sheep lice?  

A. The most common Australian sheep louse is the Bovicola ovis, known as the biting louse or body louse.  The lice feed on the wool grease and dead skin of the sheep, with the heaviest concentration found along their sides from neck to flank and even in the shoulder areas and neck folds.  

Q. What are the symptoms of a sheep lice infestation?  

A. Sheep lice cause great irritation to sheep which they will try to alleviate.  Common behaviour seen in infested sheep includes:

  • biting themselves
  • rubbing against posts, trees and fences etc.
  • scratching
  • pulling at their wool  
Q. What problems to sheep lice cause?  

A. The irritation causes great stress to the sheep and the measures that they use to alleviate their irritation have adverse effects on the quality of their wool.  Common problems include:

  • reduced appetite
  • poor body condition
  • fleece derangement
  • discolouration and yellowing of fleece
  • matted or cotted fleeces
  • cockle
  • devaluation of sheep hide  
Q. What  steps can be taken to prevent and manage sheep lice?  

A. Coopers recommends using its Magnum lice protection plus in combination with a 10 step management plan:
  1. Shear and treat all sheep at the one time. Only split-shear if complete separation of different mobs is possible.
  2. Make sure that sheep are cleanly shorn, take care to remove all tufts of wool from the neck area and avoid the use of cover combs.
  3. Complete treatment of sheep within 24 hours of shearing.
  4. Always read the label and follow instructions fully.
  5. Calibrate applicator to recommended dosage and fit with a T bar nozzle before use
  6. Apply product down the middle of the backline from poll to tail - always follow the spine
  7. Lambs must be treated as follows; under 3 months - treat as unshorn lambs, older than 3 months - shear and treat with the ewes, born after ewe shearing – treat as unshorn lambs within 9 weeks of treating ewes
  8. Never mix treated and untreated sheep.
  9. Maintain stock-proof internal fencing and boundaries
  10. Quarantine any introduced sheep until it is certain they are lice free.  

Contact Coopers Animal Health for more information on sheep lice management and prevention.

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