Anthelmintic resistance in New Zealand: A perspective on recent findings and options for the future

Anthelmintic resistance in New Zealand: A perspective on recent findings and options for the future
Peer reviewed


A recent national survey on anthelmintic resistance in cattle and sheep in New Zealand indicated that the magnitude of the problem has increased from very low levels only a few years ago to disturbingly high levels now. There is a particular problem with multiple resistance to all three action families of anthelmintic currently available in Ostertagia (= Teladorsagia) spp in sheep, and to both macrocyclic lactones (ML) and benzimidazoles in Cooperia spp in cattle. The prevalence and extent of resistance indicate that all cattle farmers and most sheep farmers should now be using a combination anthelmintic on most occasions just to achieve effective control of all parasites. Despite this, the presence of resistant parasites has generally not been appreciated by the majority of affected farmers, possibly because most have not formally tested to determine the resistance status of nematodes on their farms.
Anthelmintics will remain the cornerstone of gastrointestinal nematode control in sheep and cattle for the foreseeable future but to ensure their continued effectiveness farmers need to be constantly aware of the need to maintain adequate reservoirs of unselected nematodes, i.e. worms in refugia, to minimise the expansion of the resistant population. High-risk practices in relation to selection of resistance need to be identified and avoided or at least their use limited. These include: treating adult animals where there is no identified need, moving newly treated animals onto ‘clean’ pasture, and failing to effectively quarantine-drench bought-in animals. None of these are new concepts but many have not been adopted or practised. In particular, sheep farmers should endeavour to avoid treating ewes pre-lambing with long-acting anthelmintics. Farmers needs to negotiate a balance between achieving good parasite control and the sustainability of their control options.
KEY WORDS: Anthelmintic resistance, sheep, cattle, review, management, refugia, sustainability, alternative parasite control

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