As farmers strive to maximise their lamb survival, interest in orphan lamb rearing systems has been steadily growing.
“The national prevalence of sheep measles has dropped from 0.57% last season to 0.48%,” says Dan Lynch, project manager of Ovis Management.
“At first glance, it doesn’t look huge, but in real terms it is. It’s a great result.”
He says several factors, such as higher ewe values, mean there’s less home-kill being fed to dogs on-farm, reducing the risk of C. ovis outbreaks. But much of the latest drop in prevalence results from a steady increase in the number of farmers dosing their dogs monthly.
“While the reduction has been occurring over several seasons this is the most significant to date.”
However, Lynch says that’s no cause for complacency as sheep measles remains a quality issue in the marketplace.
Ovis Management has in the last 12 months worked to get its message to a bigger audience by more use of social media, new branding and an updated website.
“The goal, to share the importance of preventing sheep measles, is not just for farmers but other dog owners who may unwittingly allow their dogs to carry and spread the parasite,” Lynch said.
“ ‘Promote, protect and participate’ are the three pillars of the new-look branding. The message is that every at-risk dog, big or small, should be dosed monthly.”
New Zealand now has relatively low levels of sheep measles. An outbreak could cause a lot of damage in otherwise healthy stock.
There are also real financial costs for farmers. At processing, infected animals result in downgrading or, in extreme cases, condemning of sheep or lamb carcases.