The good oil

A tea tree plantation in Coraki, NSW

While researching the development of new products and markets for Australia’s tea tree oil industry, scientists from the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation found tea tree oil is an effective and environmentally benign treatment for fly strike and lice infestations in sheep.

Already widely recognised for its medicinal properties and use as an insect repellent for humans, the study’s results suggest tea tree oil derived from Melaleuca alternifolia could also prove to be a commercially successful veterinary treatment for use in the sheep and wool industries.

In the team’s laboratory trials, solutions containing one per cent tea tree oil consistently resulted in a 100 per cent kill rate of first stage maggots. There was also strong evidence to suggest the solution repelled adult flies, with no eggs being laid on the wool for up to six weeks.

Lead researcher Peter James from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation said the results were particularly encouraging.

“Our lab trials showed that a one per cent tea tree oil formulation reliably produced a 100 per cent kill rate of lice and lice eggs, but we were very pleased to see that our pen trials generated the same results,” James said.

Shorn sheep used in the trials were inspected at two, six, 12, and 20 weeks after being dipped in the one per cent tea tree oil solution, but at no point were lice found in the wool. Animals with longer wool were also tested, using both one per cent, and two per cent solutions. In all cases results showed a significant reduction in louse numbers and wool damage in comparison to controls at two weeks after treatment. Continue reading The good oil