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Colourful WormBoss founder retires from sheep industry

Thursday 18th of December 2014

After 50 years of serving the Australian sheep industry, Arthur Le Feuvre has retired.

Mr Le Feuvre helped establish the WormBoss program through the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), and is renowned throughout the industry for going to colourful lengths to grab producer attention to encourage practice change.

Most famously he penned the WormBoss song, which included lyrics like "The Boss says test resistance - to be sure which drenches kill, It’s much more cost effective than guessing like a dill!" (listen at: http://www.wormboss.com.au/files/pages/index/worm_boss.mp3).

"I needed to do something that was different to attract some attention and promote our message a bit harder," he said. "I sat down on the verandah with my guitar one Saturday afternoon and was just messing around and then I just wrote the song in about 10 minutes flat.

"I got a professional to do the backing tracks and recording, but was told I had to sing it - that certainly made it a bit different and it did the rounds pretty quickly after that."

Mr Le Feuvre worked for Queensland’s various departments of primary industries from 1964 to 2005, before moving into private consultancy with an on-going role assisting with the WormBoss Newsletter.

His career posts included time in Julia Creek and Charleville before he took the opportunity to complete a Graduate Diploma in Rural Extension at Hawkesbury College, NSW, which exposed him to new theories of communication. He then moved to Cunnamulla and Warwick.

He became a regular on ABC rural radio and television programs, and in 1974 tried to put his new communications skills into action by starting a district newsletter for sheep producers in Queensland’s South West.

"When this was floated to branch management, it was rejected on the grounds of ‘no budget’. However, during a visit to Brisbane head office, I found there was a room full of unused Roneo machines, paper and the necessary stencils. A six-pack of beer and a friendly chat to the relevant clerk resulted in my returning to Cunnamulla with the acquired goods under the tarp.

"The monthly newsletter was a hit, but it was six months before management found out what was happening and by then it was too late."

He said trying new ways of engaging producers with industry research was essential when many sheep breeders had an entrenched reluctance to change.

"In my entire career, I was most frustrated by the reticence of producers to change their management," Mr Le Feuvre said. The CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation is co-funded under the Commonwealth Government’s Cooperative Research Centres Program Transforming wool, meat and the sheep that produce them

"So we tried to get people talking about these ideas because the more people hear about a practice, the more they think it’s normal and something they should do. It’s much more effective than having an expert or government official telling them what to do, which they always resist."

He said the WormBoss program was the stand out achievement of his career.

"There has definitely been a change in worm management practices in the sheep industry, and I think that we succeeded with WormBoss because we were able to recruit all facets of the industry to back this as a good thing to do and to tell producers to think about the issue of parasite resistance," he said.

He now spends his time as a full time carer for his 100-year-old father in Caboolture, but hopes to find a few more chances to take the tinny out for a spot of fishing.

More information on WormBoss is available www.paraboss.com.au.

Media contact: Michael Thomson on 07 4927 0805 / 0408 819 666

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