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LiceBoss Treatment Guide makes decisions easier

Dr Peter James
Dr Peter James

by Deb Maxwell, Operations Manager, ParaBoss

June 2015


Have you considered introducing sheep, but are worried about bringing in lice? Achieving a lice-free flock takes a concerted effort, so the decision to bring in new sheep should not be taken lightly. But the many options and considerations, as well as the difficulty in detecting whether lice are indeed present, make the decision on how to manage or treat those sheep quite complex.

The LiceBoss Treatment Guide makes a hard decision easier. This new and simple-to-use tool from LiceBoss guides you through straightforward questions about your situation. It’s as close as you can get to talking to an expert. The final report shows your questions and answers plus a set of LiceBoss recommended actions, as well as links to the associated supporting information to help you with whichever decision you ultimately choose.

ParaBoss Technical Committee member, Dr Peter James, had substantial input to the LiceBoss Treatment Guide, and said, “The key dilemma producers face whenever they introduce sheep is whether the sheep even have lice. They can be very hard to find until an infestation has become well established.”

It may take six months or more for lice infestations, such as these below, to become detectable on a thorough inspection.

  • If the sheep have recently been shorn, shearing removes most—but not all—lice; those that remain are hard to find.
  • If the sheep have recently been treated with a chemical the lice have some resistance to, this will kill many, but again, not all lice, with the few remaining generally avoiding detection for some time.
  • If the mob’s recent treatment was applied poorly, with some sheep missing treatment or not being treated correctly, many sheep will be lice free, but those with lice might easily be missed during a mob inspection.
  • If a lousy stray has come on to your property, lice may not be evident in your flock for many months.

When looking for lice choose the most rubbed sheep in the mob. Make five partings on each side of at least ten sheep and look for lice in good light with your glasses or a magnifying glass. Once you find one louse you can stop because the mob is infested and there will be many other lice present. In the meantime, if these sheep are not effectively quarantined they could transfer lice to any sheep they contact.

LiceBoss has various recommendations for managing introduced sheep, but there are a number of factors to consider first, especially when lice may be present, but have not been positively identified.

Dr James, who has done key research on lice and fly control with DPI Queensland and the University of Queensland, said, “A key factor in managing introduced sheep is the number of sheep purchased compared to the home flock size. Many an unsuspecting ram buyer has brought lice in when buying a small number of rams.

“With a small number of sheep, the most rigorous biosecurity approach is to shear and treat them as soon as they arrive home, and to keep them isolated for a period after treatment according to the label directions for the product used. Ideally for rams, this should be done at least seven weeks before joining to avoid any possible handling stress effects on ram fertility.”

Dr James also stated that the ‘shear and treat’ option can be expensive for larger mobs, primarily because one and sometimes a later second premature shearing may be implemented to line up shearing times.

“This can significantly reduce the wool value,” said Dr James, “We therefore ensured the LiceBoss Treatment Guide could also consider your ability to isolate or quarantine the mob, the amount of wool growth currently on the sheep, and the impact introduction of lice to your flock would have on your business.”

The LiceBoss Treatment Guide provides a robust recommendation on what actions you should take to introduce sheep to maintain your lice-free status. However, it also allows you to see the other less robust recommendations, so that ultimately, you can make your choice on the practices and level of risk you are prepared to undertake.

Each recommendation will also link you to the relevant information and tools on the LiceBoss web site to assist your choice of application method and product. As application is a key factor in successful treatment, you are also directed to the instructions on how to best set up and use application equipment.

“Next time you are considering introducing sheep, or have found a stray in your flock, immediately think of the LiceBoss Treatment Guide,” said Dr James.

LiceBoss, and its sister web sites WormBoss and FlyBoss, are operated by ParaBoss. They provide practical and cost-effective strategies for worm, fly and lice control. Subscribe to the free ParaBoss News e-newsletter to receive monthly updates and feature articles on sheep parasites.