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Cattle Drench Resistance in the backyard

June 2012

Drench resistance in cattle could become a serious threat to farm productivity in NSW, potentially costing millions in lost earnings if cattle producers don’t take appropriate action to protect their herds against harmful worms, according to the NSW State Worm Control Co-ordinator, Dr Stephen Love.

“It could very easily get out of hand if farmers aren’t aware of the issue and take necessary action,” warns Dr Love.

While the issue of drench resistance in sheep is quite well understood, Dr Love says the results of recent on-going research shows that parasites affecting cattle are also developing drench resistance, but that in many cases beef producers are not aware of the problem, or that their productivity may already be suffering.

“Cattle farmers are only just becoming aware that resistance is a real issue for them because now it’s in their own backyard and not just something they hear about from sheep farmers. There’s definitely need for a lot more education among cattle producers around the dangers and causes of drench resistance,” says Dr Love.

While the benefits of using combination drenches on sheep are widely acknowledged, Dr Love says many cattle farmers are unaware that combination drenches have now been formulated for cattle.

“There is no doubt combination drenches are much more effective than single active drenches in combating the growing problem of drench resistance in cattle. The challenge now is for that awareness to reach producers so that, depending on their situation, they can take the right action,” says Dr Love.

Combination drenches include two or more actives which work together to effectively kill parasites, as it is much less likely that worms will be resistant to two actives simultaneously.

“The trouble with using single active drenches all the time is that you are heading towards resistance a lot faster. A combination drench is the optimal way to go and the earlier we get in with using them the better,” explains Dr Love.

Based on the worm count data being seen in recent surveys in major cattle producing regions of the State, worm control coordinators have concluded that there is a high chance producers could suffer very significant productivity losses in their herds.

“We’ve had repeated surveys and trials in NSW, QLD, VIC and WA and there’s now strong evidence that resistance is posing a threat. It’s important for producers to nip the issue in the bud before it becomes an unmanageable problem across the State,” says Dr Love.

“We got in later than we should have with sheep. We shouldn’t wait until the problem gets away from us to take action in cattle. As new combination products become available farmers should be using them from day one. The earlier we get in the better,” he advises.

Until recently, there were no combination drench solutions available for cattle producers in Australia. In light of the increasing awareness about drench resistance among cattle, leading animal health supplier Merial Australia has developed the country’s first combination pour-on for beef producers: Eclipse combination pour-on for cattle.

Eclipse contains two powerful actives – abamectin and levamisole – in one single dose, creating a whole new level of parasite protection. The abamectin component works to kill a broad spectrum of internal and external parasites, while the levamisole component works to kill ML-resistant strains of Cooperia and Ostertagia.

“Farmers love using ML products for cattle and a lot of them use ML all the time. The advantage of Eclipse is that it has unrelated actives as well so from a resistance point of view, and an efficacy point of view, Eclipse is better than using a single active drench of a similar activity length,” explains Dr Love.

Worm control coordinators recommend that farmers carry out worm checks on their herd, and include a combination product into their drench rotation to keep on top of the issue. “Including a combination product in your drench rotation would be the best step at this stage,” suggests Dr Love.