Worms can significantly affect farm profitability and animal welfare outcomes for cattle particularly young cattle raised in the higher rainfall zones.
In 2015 the cost of internal parasites to the cattle industry was estimated by MLA to be over $93.6 million annually. Of this figure, $82.4 million ($42.3 million in preventative costs and $39.6 million in costs associated with production loss) was incurred on southern farms and $11.6M ($7.8M preventative costs, $3.8M cost of production loss) on northern farms (Figure 1). The main treatment and prevention costs were considered to be mainly for drenches (anthelmintics), estimated to be $50-60 million annually. More recent research suggests that these estimates are likely too low.
The Australian Farm Institute considered that the true cost of loss of income would be greater than just the cost of treatment and/or prevention alone, in most circumstances. Costs due to the increasing incidence of drug resistant gastrointestinal roundworms are yet to be identified.
Over six million Australian cattle graze fluke infected pastures with fluke treatments costing producers around $10 million annually in 2005. Weight loss and condemnation of infected livers at slaughter are unrealised costs to producers. Losses incurred from hydatid infections were estimated in 2016 to be about $1.7 million annually. Ongoing research investigating the importance of hydatids to weight loss, is also suggesting that the true cost to producers is likely much higher than these figures.
Figure 1. Northern and southern beef cattle regions in Australia are impacted differently by worms. Image courtesy of ABARES