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Getting barber’s pole under control

16 May 2019

With more than two million doses of Barbervax® sold globally every year, the barber’s pole worm population is under attack.

Developed with MLA funding and initially launched in Australia, Scotland‑based Barbervax inventor Dr David Smith of Moredun Research Institute said the product was also being sold in South Africa and the company had permission to distribute it under veterinary supervision in the UK.

“The vaccine is specific for barber’s pole worm, so producers still need to drench for other worm species. But where Barbervax is being used, fewer drenches are required and, on some farms, no other control is needed for barber’s pole worm,” David said.

Generally, producers administer Barbervax while sheep are yarded for drenching for other worms or animal husbandry.

Moredun CEO and Research Director Professor Julie Fitzpatrick said producers need to inject sheep regularly during the barber’s pole worm danger period in their region.

“We’d like to improve the vaccine response so we can reduce the number of injections needed, and that’s ongoing work,” Julie said.

“Anecdotally, we’re hearing a lot of positive reports from producers outlining productivity benefits that we were unable to quantify during clinical trials.

“Barbervax is a very green solution to worm control. Its real advantage is it’s a preventive measure; it’s preventing infestation with a really nasty parasite.”

This in turn reduces the amount of worm eggs and larvae contaminating paddocks, thus leading to cleaner pasture and less infection in the future. There’s no problem with worms developing resistance to Barbervax, making it effective in areas where drench resistance is a problem.

Case study: Jen and Darren Smith, Kentucky, NSW

Jen and Darren had been dealing with drench resistance in their Merino flock for some time when they first tried Barbervax®.

“Barbervax vaccine was a godsend for managing barber’s pole worm,” Jen said. 

“The two newest drench products on the market – Startect® and Zolvix™ – were working for us, and continue to do so, but the other drench classes were not. We weren’t losing sheep, but they were taking a lot of work to manage. We were drenching up to eight times a year.”

In the first year of using Barbervax, the Smiths (who both have full‑time off‑farm jobs) used it with young sheep only. The following year, they used it more broadly and now every sheep on the property is vaccinated.

“We follow the rules closely for giving the Barbervax,” Jen said.

“Starting at marking, the lambs get three vaccinations in close succession to prime their immune systems. The ewes get their first vaccination for the season in September, just before they start lambing.

“Then the ewes get their second dose for the season at lamb marking when the lambs get their first. All the sheep then get vaccinated every six weeks until about April, when the danger period for barber’s pole worm infestation ends.”

Jen said that because Barbervax had no withholding period or export slaughter interval, it improved market flexibility.

“Although we’ve had a couple of dry summers, I remain confident we’ll get a good result from the Barbervax,” she said.

“The one challenge we have with it is in relation to our ram breeding nucleus. There’s an antagonism in that you can’t collect worm egg counts for Australian Sheep Breeding Values from sheep that have been immunised with Barbervax.

“We’d like to be working better to improve genetic resistance to worms but also want to use Barbervax. At the moment we’re limited in what we can do in that area because we can’t do the two things at once.”