Anthelmintic resistance and management of nematode parasites on beef cattle-rearing farms in the North Island of New Zealand

Anthelmintic resistance and management of nematode parasites on beef cattle-rearing farms in the North Island of New Zealand
Peer reviewed


AIM: To provide information on current farmers’ opinions and farming practices thought to be related to anthelmintic resistance, and to test for associations between the presence of anthelmintic resistance and management practices on beef-cattle rearing farms in the North Island of New Zealand.
METHODS: A study using an interview-based questionnaire about management of internal parasites was conducted on 62 beef cattle-rearing farms in the North Island of New Zealand, using case-control analyses to test for associations between management practices and the presence or absence of resistance to ivermectin or albendazole. Resistance was inferred from faecal nematode egg count (FEC) reduction (FECR) tests (FECRTs) when there was <90% reduction in FEC 7–10 days after treatment of calves <12 months of age.
RESULTS: Of the 59 farmers who completed the questionnaire, most (n=40) ranked parasites highly, and at about the same level as quality and quantity of feed, as important production-limiting factors for their enterprises. In contrast, anthelmintic resistance was not perceived to be a problem on 13 farms, and its importance was rated low on 24, moderate on 15, and high on only six farms. Despite all farms having planned parasite control programmes, there was heavy reliance on clinical signs of parasitism to determine frequency of treatments. About one in three farmers with beef breeder cows routinely treated their calves at marking, one in five treated mixed-age cows, and almost half treated rising 2-year-old cows before calving. One in four farmers used anthelmintics on calves on 8–12 occasions in their first year of life. Co-grazing with other species was rare, but follow-on grazing within 3 months after older cattle or sheep was common. On most farms, grazing cattle was restricted to part of the farm, a finding with implications for parasite control and persistence of larvae in refugia. Macrocyclic lactone (ML) anthelmintics or their combinations with other action families were currently, and for the past 5 years, used more frequently than benzimidazoles and levamisole, and benzimidazole-levamisole combinations. The prevalence of resistance to ivermectin was high (82%) and no plausible model of associations could be constructed from the data. The prevalence of resistance to albendazole was 60%, and the risk of resistance increased as the number of rising 1-year-old cattle present mid-winter increased, and decreased as the number of breeding cows >2 years old present mid-winter increased.
CONCLUSION: It is clear that in practice anthelmintic resistance is a secondary consideration to obtaining productivity advantages from the use of anthelmintics in beef cattle. Farmers’ opinions were divided on many issues and the overall impression was of confused and diverse thinking regarding the principles of the use of anthelmintics. The overall outlook regarding anthelmintic resistance in cattle is bleak unless the need for integrated and long-term research activities is acted upon soon.
KEY WORDS: Cattle, anthelmintic resistance, macrocyclic lactone, ivermectin, levamisole, benzimidazole, albendazole, questionnaire, survey, management

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