The real cost of sheep measles

20 JULY 2011

Anecdotal data shows sheep measles causes major financial losses to the Australian sheep meat industry, but accurate data on the exact financial loss is not available and is urgently needed.

Anecdotal data shows sheep measles causes major financial losses to the Australian sheep meat industry, but accurate data on the exact financial loss is not available and is urgently needed.
 
A team of researchers led by Dr David Jenkins and Dr Jan Lievaart from the EH Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation - an alliance between Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) - have secured $429 000 in funding from Meat and Livestock Australia to answer this question.
 
“Sheep measles is caused by infection with the larval stage of a dog tapeworm (Taenia ovis),” said Dr Jenkins, Senior Research Fellow in Parasitology the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga.
 
“The parasitic infection occurs mainly in the heart muscle of sheep but in heavy infestations, muscles throughout the body can be infected.
 
“While there are no public health issues related to the disease, it has potentially important economic impacts on the Australian sheep meat industry,” said Dr Jenkins.
 
Historically, sheep measles has led to the rejection of a major part of a consignment of Australian boned mutton to the United States and remains a potential international trade impediment.
 
“Recent data through the National Sheep Health Monitoring Survey (2006-2010), has identified sheep measles occurring more commonly than was previously realised, particularly in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, and more recently it has also been found to be common in sheep in South Australia,” said Dr Jenkins.
 
“For the period July 2007 to June 2008 there were 1.3 million cases reported nationally.
 
The two year project is due to commence within the next couple of months. Researchers from the Graham Centre will work closely with abattoirs and sheep producers across Australia, Livestock Health and Pest Authorities, NSW DPI, CSU, Department of Agriculture and Forestry WA and the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmania.
 
“Data generated from detailed assessment of the epidemiology of the parasite will assist in identifying transmission risk factors and improve on-farm control through producer education,” said Dr Jenkins.
 
“Sheep measles is transmitted to sheep mainly by domestic dogs, so producers can assist in reducing the spread of the disease by regularly worming their dogs for tapeworm and freezing sheep meat or a minimum of two weeks to kill the parasite before it is fed to dogs.”
 
Drs Jenkins and Lievaart gratefully acknowledge the support of Animal Health Australia in the preparation of this proposal.
 

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