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A review of mulesing and other methods to control flystrike (cutaneous myiasis) in sheep

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Flystrike (cutaneous myiasis) in sheep has the potential to have a major impact on the welfare of significant numbers of sheep worldwide, but particularly in Australia. The main control method used in Australia, the mulesing operation to remove folds of skin from the hindquarters of the sheep, is effective in controlling the disease, but will be terminated from 2010 as a result of concerns that the operation itself has too great a negative impact on sheep welfare. Alternative treatment methods are considered, and it is proposed that they need to be appraised for each farm separately, based on the conditions prevailing and the potential to apply the different treatments. Sheep are predisposed to flystrike if their fleece is wet or contaminated with faeces or urine. Monitoring and awareness of the weather conditions will enable farmers to strategically treat their sheep with insecticides, or to observe them and treat affected animals more regularly. Frequent removal of wool by crutching, dagging and shearing will aid wool desiccation after rainfall and decrease the likelihood of fleece contamination with excreta. Some control of diarrhoea can be achieved by good grazing management and treatment of diseases that predispose sheep to the disorder. Reducing fly populations can be achieved by the use of traps, and parasitoid wasps also offer some promise. Alternative methods of removing wool and wrinkles from the hindquarters of sheep, including the topical application of quarternary ammonium compounds, phenols, caustic soda or plastic clips, have yet to be proven to be effective, without severely impacting on the welfare of the animal as well as compromising operator safety. In the long term, the breeding of sheep without wrinkles or wool on their hindquarters offers the most likely method of control, although a small proportion of sheep are affected on other parts of their body.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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