The message to freeze sheep meat for at least seven days to break the sheep measles cycle is very clear, and there would be few dog folk on farms that did not know that. Why then is the disease still very much a problem? I'm sure one of the reasons is that we are feeding meat that we think has been adequately frozen and in fact has not been.
If you look into a freezer and pick out a bit of frozen meat - you are very hard pushed to tell how long it has been frozen. It's too darned easy to think that if it is rock solid and it'll be OK.
There are two human behaviour problems involved. One is that busy people always underestimate time. We think it was a week ago that the dog tuckers were killed but it was only four or five days ago. So much seems to have happened in the interval. And note that the instructions say "at least" seven days.
The other problem is that when we work in a group, we regularly forget to tell the other chaps what we've done. You know when the meat went into the freezer. It's not your job to go running around after everyone else to tell them. If you write it on a blackboard in the dog tucker shed they never read it anyway!
Anyway, the freezer may in fact not be working at peak efficiency. Presumably it's the bosses job to check that! If you suggest a temperature check, you may be accused of insulting both the boss and the bargain freezer he picked up at the local dump! The temperature should be at minus ten degrees centigrade or colder. And who has a thermometer that will cover that temperature range?
What's the solution then, to tell how long the dog tucker has been in the freezer.?
One well-organised shepherd told me that his boss had two freezers and there was enough meat killed so that there was never the need or temptation to dive into the other freezer before the time was up. I hear some readers saying that buying two freezers is too expensive and an extravagance! Sounds like a suggestion to buy a new kennel!
How about cutting the meat up and putting it into bags that you can write the date on? I can here the screams of derision! What busy, tired shepherd has the time to do a daft thing like that? What busy person even knows the date? Maybe the day of the week but that's about all.
How can you write on a greasy carcass then? The answer is you can't. So what is wrong with sticking a label on it. They frost over and get soggy.
Oh gees I give up. However, there must be somebody who has a practical solution that does not cost much. I've asked a lot of Hydatids and Dog Control Officers and they have not come across the ultimate solution that is foolproof and cheap. If you have the answer then email me
You know what happens at the end of a busy day, often in the dark. If the meat is frozen solid then it's too easy to say - oh she'll be right. The pills will kill the parasites eh!
Trouble is this is not the solution and our exports are at risk. Overseas markets are going to get tougher too by the way things are going. Remember that we're not just sheep farmers - we are in the human health food business! Meat is a health food - you'd better believe it. And if you do, you've got to agree that cysts in lamb do not make the job of selling it easier!.