SHEEP producers have been reminded to remain vigilant and have a flystrike management plan ready to go.
Animal Health Alliance CEO Dr Peter Holdsworth flystrike costs the industry $280 million each year in treatment costs and lost production, which is why it's so important producers stay on the front foot and plan now.
Wet weather and moderate to hot temperatures (above 17 degrees Celsius) provide the perfect conditions for flies to lay eggs. These eggs hatch into larvae and feed on the animal's flesh.
The risk of flystrike is higher where there has been enough rain to keep the sheep's fleece wet for more than two days. This leads to skin damage and the release of extra protein which makes the wet fleece even more attractive to flies.
Management strategies will vary depending on where the farm is located and the severity of the outbreak, according to NSW Department of Primary Industries Principal Research Scientist, Dr Garry Levot.
"A lot of farmers will treat sheep on a case-by-case basis as they become struck. These sheep should be removed from the mob and treated immediately," he said.
"The wool around the affected area should be clipped and a flystrike chemical applied as per the manufacturer's directions on the label.
"Many farmers in south-eastern NSW will start shearing soon, which will remove the fleece and reduce the risk of flystrike.
"If the risk becomes more serious, some producers will choose to apply a preventative treatment to their more susceptible mobs, such as their weaners, to get long term protection from flies.
"These treatments have strict withholding periods to allow the chemical to break down before the fleece is removed at shearing or the animal is slaughtered," Dr Levot said.
A critical component of a flystrike management plan is regular inspection of flocks to monitor sheep for symptoms.
"After the drought broke in 2010, a lot of sheep producers got caught out because untreated sheep with wet fleeces were susceptible to flies. Conditions remained conducive to flystrike for many weeks and in some circumstances sheep were becoming struck at a rate producers could not manage," Dr Holdsworth said.
"In some areas there were reports that the most effective flystrike prevention treatments were in short supply due to the demand.
"My advice to farmers at this point in the year is check your stock regularly, monitor weather conditions and make the most of online tools and resources to help protect your flock from outbreaks."
- Flystrike Assist app: The Department of Agriculture and Food in WA has just released a smartphone app called Flystrike Assist to help sheep producers manage flystrike. The app is free and can be easily downloaded via your phone's app store.
- FlyBoss website: FlyBoss in an online resource managed by the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) which provides the latest information on minimising risk through management and breeding as well as treating flystrike outbreaks.
For further information, contact your local vet or DPI Animal Health Officer.