The Coopers Couch E5: Lice eating away at profits

Sheep lice cost industry hundreds of millions each year, they're too big to ignore


Sheep lice may be tiny but the financial burden they place upon the industry is gargantuan. With a cool dry season almost upon us, producers cannot afford to ignore this bio-security threat.


Story sponsored by Coopers Animal Health.

Sheep lice may be tiny but the financial burden they place upon the industry is gargantuan. With a cool dry season almost upon us, producers cannot afford to ignore this bio-security threat.

In NSW alone, these minuscule lice cost producers more than $120m each year in lost revenue. That's why the issue is never far from Forbes based merino farmer Dan Mattiske's mind. 

Mr Mattiske runs a mixed operation, producing both Shorthorn cattle and crops as well, but super fine wool is his bread and butter. 

He knows all too well what can happen if an infestation gets out of control - especially during a tough season - and takes active measures to prevent it.

"We've got properties that are spread around... and we have quite a few neighbours," Mr Mattiske explained. 

"And, we need to be aware that our sheep will come into contact with other sheep at a certain point in time… that's why we administer a precautionary lice treatment every year."

When left unattended, lice cut through your flock like a hot knife through butter, causing distress and discomfort to the animals and absolutely decimating your bottom line.

Not only do lice irritate the skin of the sheep, they can cause them to bite themselves incessantly and rub themselves against trees and fences to stop the itching. This does serious harm to their fleece and your balance sheet.

According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries, lousy sheep cut 10 per cent less wool than non affected wool and cotted fleece is worth 10 per cent less than non-cotted. 

An infestation are also at a much higher risk of flystrike and saleyard rejection, both of which are costly. 

Lice can live up to 20 weeks and lay one to two eggs every three days on average, they hatch after ten days. 

Lice also need  relatively constant temperature to survive. A sheep's fleece provides the perfect environment. The optimum temperature for survival is 36-37˚C, which is the approximate skin temperature of sheep under most conditions. 

Population build up usually occurs most rapidly during cooler months and in dry conditions, which is why the Mattiskes refuse to take any chances when it comes to this biological pest.

Due to the logistics of his operation, the Mattiskes treat for lice straight after shearing to ensure every animal is properly protected.

He uses Coopers Maverick and says he would recommend the product to anybody. 

Not only does it protect against lice but it protects against worms too. Meaning your get twice the bang for your buck. 

"When Cooper's Maverick first came on the market we were looking at it purely from an economic stand point and what we found was that it stacks up quite well against a range of other products," Mr Mattiske expalined.

"Because it is a lice and worm product, it is definitely an advantage economically and more importantly, it does the job!"

​Story sponsored by Coopers Animal Health.