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  • Matt Playford

Dawbuts Autumn Newsletter 2019

Autumn is upon us! While things may feel like they are slowing down with the chill beginning to fill the air, it is anything but quiet here at Dawbuts! We’re running full steam ahead, so read on to find out what we’ve been up to.


Knowing the resistance status of worms in a sheep mob can provide peace of mind for many wool producers. Australian sheep producers spend an estimated A$93m per year on sheep drenches. However, most of the time, they don’t know if the drench is working. One of the reasons why farmers do not drench test is because the traditional test is based on low sensitivity counts that require a mob average faecal egg count (FEC) of 300 before it can begin. This may be hard to achieve, especially if the sheep are being managed for low worm burdens. The second problem is that leaving sheep until they have higher worm burdens exposes them to the risk of sickness and low production.

AWI’s research project to trial new methods of drench testing is aiming to derive a new method based on improved technologies for counting and analysis of FECs. The result should be a test that is simple and cheap to conduct but provides diagnostic answers that are more robust and reliable.

This includes only minor changes to the way the test is set-up on farm. Possibly the most important change is the dropping of the untreated control group for future testing. This will also reduce the risk of seriously ill animals due to high parasite burdens, particularly in areas were barbers pole worms have become the major problem.

To achieve this, sheep producers across Australia are collecting dung samples from a mob of wormy sheep on the day of drenching, then again 14 days after the drench. The samples are sent to the lab and subjected to a four-way analysis:

  1. Traditional worm egg count – with an un-drenched control group for comparison

  2. Traditional worm egg counts, but the ‘before’ samples are used instead of an un-drenched control group.

  3. Mini-FLOTAC worm egg count (higher sensitivity) with an un-drenched control comparison group.

  4. Mini-FLOTAC, using the ‘before’ samples as a control group.

Comparing the performance of the 4 different methods is the key part of this study. Dr. Janina McKay-Demeler a veterinary parasitologist who has worked in practice and universities in Australia and Germany is now with Dawbuts, based in Camden, NSW. She has set up the trial so that it clearly shows the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches to drench testing.

“We have trialed the Mini-FLOTAC for drench testing in European sheep and the results are impressive. It’s a bit like using the latest mobile phone technology compared to the old landline dial phones” said Janina. “In the world of electronics, everyone wants to keep up with the newest technology available, while it is surprisingly still difficult to convince people to use newer and much more sophisticated methods in drench testing. This trial aims to cover all of Australia and if we receive enough participating farms, we will be able to analyse how each of the methods performs under real-world conditions. The objective is better worm control for Australian sheep producers and that can only improve both welfare and productivity.” Sheep producers wanting to participate in this trial can contact Dawbuts on or call 02 4655 6464.

In the Local Community

Your worm egg test kits are produced by young adult workers from Mater Dei, Camden NSW

Young adults from Mater Dei NextPath Program hard at work assembling worm egg test kits for Dawbuts.

For the past ten years, Dawbuts worm egg test kits have been hand-assembled in Camden, NSW. In the early days we had the assistance of students and a disability service. However, due to increasing demand, we have exceeded our capacity to assemble the much-needed kits that are sent out all over Australia.

Janina proposed the idea to enlist the help of a local provider. We searched and found the ideal partner. Introducing the Mater Dei Work & Community Pathways program. Adriana and Nicole went along with Janina and spent some time showing the young adults at Mater Dei how our kits are assembled. From the raw materials of a flat piece of cardboard, a complex three-dimensional coloured box is constructed. The next step is to fold the 15-well sample tray, and put that into the box, along with mailing package and the glove and plastic bags for hygiene and Post Office compliance.

We stepped back and waited. Amid the joyful noise of young people engaged in their work, a huge box packed with 60 fully assembled worm egg count kits emerged. And now we are proud to send these out to you for sampling your livestock and posting back to the Dawbuts Kamiya Laboratory. You may notice the individual mark of each person who is responsible for assembling the kits. Like other handmade art works such as China’s terracotta warriors or the mosaics of Pompeii, these reflect the personality of their creator.

If you have openings for young adults that may suit the work done by members of the Mater Dei Work & Community Pathways, please contact Sharon Pascoe-Thomas at

Dawbuts and Techion (NZ) launch the FECPAKG2 technology for Australia livestock producers.

World-first technology to rapidly and accurately provide worm egg counts for livestock has been launched in Australia by Dawbuts, along with technology providers Techion of New Zealand.

FECPAKG2 is already in use on over 30 farms, vet clinics and rural retailer stores. The launch audience were given case studies showing how producers are improving productivity, diagnosing resistance, helping drench decisions and avoiding risks using worm egg counts.

For more details, see our FECPAKG2 page.

Providing Expert Advice to Readers

For the last couple of months, Matt has been busy writing and providing expert advice for agricultural newsletters and veterinary medicine journals for both Australia and Japan. Two of the more noted articles included a focus on both sheep husbandry and management and drench resistance.

“Good technique crucial for sheep welfare” by Jill Griffiths Kondinin Group’s Farming Ahead newsletter. Matt provides insight along with fellow veterinarian Dr Joan Lloyd on the best sheep practices when it comes to dealing with animal welfare in typical sheep production enterprises. To read the full article, follow this link.

“Diagnosing drench resistance in livestock” by Matthew Playford Journal of Clinical Veterinary Medicine (Japan). Drench resistance is a crucial component optimizing animal health, not only in Australia but in other parts of the world including Japan. Interested in learning more about drench resistance and how to manage it? Call the team at Dawbuts and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

Safety in Packaging

In 2016, 182 Australians died at work. The fatality rate was highest for workers in Agriculture, forestry & fishing. Thousands more people were injured or became sick at work. Again, agricultural workers had the highest rate. Although there is a downward trend, with fatalities down by 49% since the peak in 2007, anyone who has been affected by workplace injury, sickness or death knows that even one is too many.

For more details on workplace health and safety, go to the Safe Work Australia website.

Dawbuts is striving to implement best practice to stop the risk of anyone being hurt or injured at work. One way we do this is with our packaging. You will find this on every one of our postal bags we send through with our kits.

Because parasitology studies rely on the testing of fresh faecal samples, it is vital that these are submitted to the laboratory as quickly as possible. This often requires shipping by aeroplane. Samples of fresh faeces from normal livestock are categorized as ‘Category B’ biological samples. The definition applies to samples that have a low risk of being infectious but are potentially dangerous.

There are THREE levels of regulations that need to be complied with in packaging samples.

IATA 650- These guidelines are approved and upheld by the members of the International Air Transport Association. Regulation 650 specifies how biological samples are to be packaged.

UN3373- UN numbers or UN IDs are four-digit numbers that identify dangerous goods, hazardous substances and articles (such as explosives, flammable liquids, toxic substances, etc.) in the framework of international transport. They are assigned by the United Nations Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods. UN3373 refers to Category B biological samples.

Australia Post- accepts biological substances for transport through the postal service, if they comply with strict packaging requirements. Samples can only be sent to a recognized diagnostic laboratory. The key features are:

  1. clear and compliant labeling three layers of sealing between the substance and the outside

  2. able to withstand the ‘Free Drop Test’

  3. watertight primary receptacles and secondary packaging

  4. absorbent material to mop up any spilled liquid.

Hopefully this explains why our packaging is a little complex. We feel that it is worth a little effort to make sure that samples are submitted and delivered in a way that poses no risk to lab staff, submitters, or the postal workers who help get it to us.

Email Scams

I (Matthew Playford) recently received an email that seemed to come from my own email address, In the message, the sender told me that my email had been hacked and they had filmed me using the computer’s camera. If I didn’t send them US$1,000, they would use my email address to send out this ‘embarrassing’ or possibly even ‘compromising’ video to all my contacts.

This email scam has been reported to the relevant authorities. You can report any other malicious activity by going to the Scamwatch website.

However, please delete any email from me that looks suspicious and definitely do not click on any links. The Scamwatch website operated by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission estimate that small businesses like ours are scammed for millions of dollars each year. Apologies if this has caused you any inconvenience.

FECPAKG2 Continues to Blaze Trails Internationally

Dawbuts, in partnership with inventors Techion, has adopted FECPAKG2 as the premier method for field worm egg counts in Australia.

New research shows that the FECPAKG2 platform, as well as being an accurate and reliable means for detecting and counting animal parasites, can also impact the diagnosis of parasites and other diseases in humans.

Needing Lousy Cattle

Dawbuts are urgently on the hunt for lousy cattle to be part of an upcoming efficacy study. The criteria needed to be fulfilled are as follows:

  1. Female

  2. 100-200kg preferred

  3. Dairy breed or light-coloured

  4. 20-25 head

If you or anyone you know may be interested, please contact us!

What’s New @Dawbuts?

We are pleased to introduce our newest member of the lab team, Andrew Sheehy. Andrew has been with us now for almost 2 months and has been a valuable addition, especially with our high volume of samples currently being processed in the lab. A keen photographer, history guru and several years experience in administration, Andrew has already made himself a part of the Dawbuts family.

New Kits Coming Soon

Dawbuts is always looking for ways to improve our environmental footprint. We are currently working on changing our kit box to make it more environmentally friendly.

New Price List

We would like to let our customers know that from next month, there will be a new price list for all of our laboratory services. These prices will be available on the website. Any questions at all, please do not hesitate to contact the friendly team at Dawbuts.

A friendly Reminder

When preparing to send a sample through to us, we kindly ask that all details on the form inside the kit are filled out. This will mean quicker processing in the lab, and invoices out sooner.

Hay Ewe!

Liked what you see here? Make sure to check out our social media pages to keep up with the Dawbuts team!

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