Wormwise Workshops: a whole farm approach

This third story in our internal parasite management series looks at what a Wormwise workshop entails. If you think internal parasite management is just too hard to get your head around, expect to be pleasantly surprised.
Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Oamaru veterinarian Dave Robertson is one of 14 Wormwise workshop facilitators around New Zealand. He says the length and format of workshops differ, but he generally aims for an afternoon time slot, with 10 to 20 farmers.

The workshops take a “whole farm” approach to sustainable internal parasite management, with the goal being healthier animals. 

Attendee feedback

Greg and Nicky Hand own and lease a total of 4200ha over two North Otago properties – one being a large, hill country block at Dunback. 

Greg tries to keep his knowledge around internal parasites up to date, but admits it can be daunting. 

He attended one of Dave’s Wormwise workshops over winter and found it easy to understand and was re-assured that he was doing more right, than wrong. 

“It was well worth attending and presented in layman terms. There was no hard sell – just suggestions, ideas and options. Every farm is different and the decision of what to do with that information is all yours.”

How does the workshop flow?

Expect an interactive approach with plenty of banter – beginning with the chance to say exactly what you want to get out of the workshop. 

“The idea is to move away from presentations and more toward farmer engagement and practical scenarios,” says Dave. “It’s all stuff farmers have heard before, but the workshop is a chance to really chew over the information. The workshop style keeps farmers awake and gives them the confidence to put together a plan for their situation.” 

No two workshops are the same, although they do cover off four key areas: worm biology; how parasites affect stock; developing a parasite management strategy specific to your farm; and drench families and resistance issues.

Each topic is covered using a different approach, so there are plenty of opportunities to grasp the common principles.

The power of good grazing management

Dave says the workshops include a focus minimising the impact of parasites through good grazing management, stock integration, and drenching at the right times with the right drench. 

“Reducing the pasture larval challenge to high risk stock has huge benefits – as farmers quickly recognise, during the workshops.” 

Workshops’ objectives

A key message regarding drenching practices: Use an effective combination drench and employ some degree of pro-active refugia.

What is refugia? For drenches to work, you need a population of internal parasites susceptible to the drench you’re using. 

Refugia is about keeping enough susceptible worms in the system, to dilute the population of resistant worms, says Dave.

“It’s not about creating a worm farm, or compromising stock performance. And it’s worth noting that, the more effective your drench, the less refugia animals you need in your system.”

Note the word “effective” in relation to the drench you use. Dave is unwavering in his recommendation that farmers need to carry out a simple Faecal Egg Count Reduction Test (FECRT). “It’s the only way you can know which drenches work on your farm.” 

Farmer’s thoughts post workshop 

Greg was already using a combination drench for older stock and a triple-active for young stock. He was already highly wary of capsule use and is also adjusting his flock’s genetics to be more tolerant to worm burdens. 

Greg says he’s always been careful, when it comes to his internal parasite management – possibly too careful, he now wonders. 

“I’m a bit old school and hated to see a lamb get over the rail. I’d chase it for miles. Then the key message from the workshop for me was around refugia – to leave some of your biggest, fattest sheep undrenched.” 

Greg is also planning to carry out a FECRT. “It’s only the equivalent cost of five lambs per year.”

Want to know more?

Request a Wormwise workshop in your area

  • Email your B+LNZ extension manager

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