Over the past years, since schemes of compulsorily dog dosing have ceased, the majority of sheep farmers have instigated voluntary dosing for their dogs to prevent outbreaks of sheep measles which is a parasitic infection of sheep meat spread by dogs. Many think sheep measles is a minor issue but in one particularly bad case recently, one North Island farmer had 263 lambs infected at processing out of a line of 293 with around 56 condemned.
It is important that you, as a Pig Hunter, play your role in helping to restrict the spread of this parasite. It will also help you to gain access onto farmland by doing a few minor things.
One of the most important things you can do is have your dogs dosed regularly.
Dan Lynch, the Project Manager for Ovis Management Ltd, the meat industry company responsible for education and awareness of sheep measles, says that “farmers are increasingly aware of on-farm biosecurity issues such as sheep measles. While they are spending money dosing their dogs their attention is focusing on external sources of infection and a major risk to stock is from foreign dogs such as those with hunters, coming onto sheep pasture.”
Farmers are taking the approach that all money and effort preventing infection on farms is at risk the moment someone else’s dog comes on the farm unless that dog is on a treatment programme.
Wairarapa sheep farmer and Chairman of Ovis Management, Roger Barton, takes a stronger tack. “Easy hunting access to private farmland may become a thing of the past if pig hunters don’t have their dogs dosed for sheep measles”.
He encourages farmers to require evidence that dogs have been dosed for sheep measles before they are allowed on the property for hunting. And he asks hunters to take responsibility for their role in fighting a parasite capable of hurting farmer’s profits and damaging lamb exports. “Most hunters are pretty onto it,” he says. “But some – including some who have a lot of dogs – don’t dose, or feed those dogs properly to control sheep measles. “All you need is one untreated, infected dog on a pig to get lost, or go for miles across sheep country, and you’ve got a major problem.”
He acknowledges farmers themselves have a huge role to play in containing the risk posed by sheep measles, which threatens not only key industry markets but can have a major impact on farmers’ incomes. “Farmers have to feed their own dogs correctly, make sure their freezers are working (sheep or goat meat should be frozen at minus 10 degrees for 10 days before feeding to dogs) and dose their dogs regularly. ”They also need to stop turning a blind eye to the status of dogs visiting their property. Barton says the best thing for hunters to do is strike up long-term relationships with farmers whose land they would like to hunt across or near (see tips below). And of course get their dogs treated. “Trade implications of sheep measles are potentially quite serious”. “Using a tape wormer tablet such as Droncit or Wormicide on a monthly basis, which is all that is needed to control sheep measles, costs around $12 a year per dog for small dogs, and around $24 a year for large ones. That adds up when you’re talking a team of eight or nine dogs but it’s cheap compared with the costs of a sheep measles storm outbreak or, if you are a hunter, having issues about farm access.”
Vets have a role to play too, in reminding customers to dose their dogs and ensuring treatment is up to date.
Some Tips for new hunters
- Phone the farmer, tell him or her who you are, and ask for access to or across their land for hunting.
- Take them a beer!
- Sit down and find out what the rules for access to the property are.
- Know where the neighbour’s boundaries are.
- Phone your vet and let them know you are coming in to have your dogs treated. And keep an eye on the calendar – dogs should be treated at least 48 hours (but no more than four weeks) before going onto a farm.