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Effective use of long-acting drenches


Effective persistent treatments kill immature and adult worms at the time of treatment, as well as infective larvae eaten by animals (with pasture) during the period of protection of the treatment—for sheep, this is about 3 months for long-acting and 1–6 weeks for mid-length treatments (depending on the particular product).

Both may increase selection for resistance to the actives in those treatments for two reasons. Firstly, worms are exposed to the active for longer. This favours surviving resistant worms, which then reproduce. Secondly, persistent treatments have a longer time at the end of their protection period where the active concentration drops to a level where partly resistant worms may survive and reproduce.

The most commonly used persistent drenches contain the actives moxidectin or closantel. Some moxidectin and closantel products have a “Do Not Use” statement preventing use in animals that may be used to produce milk for human consumption. 

Use primer and exit drenches with long-acting treatments

Primer drenches clear the animal of any worms that are resistant to the long-acting treatment. A primer drench is an effective short-acting drench (preferably a combination) that does not include the same group as the long-acting product. Give a primer at the same time that a long-acting product is given.

Exit drenches are used two weeks after the end of the actual protection period. By this time the persistent treatment has declined to very low levels. The exit drench kills larvae that have survived the persistent treatment and developed into breeding adult worms. Another name for the exit drench is a ‘tail cutter’.

An exit drench (like the primer drench) is an effective short-acting treatment (preferably a combination) that is from a different group/s to the persistent product.

Mid-length treatments need exit drenches

Resistance can develop to mid-length treatments in the same way as to long-acting treatments. While primer and exit drenches are desirable with mid-length treatments, they are rarely cost-effective because of the relatively short protection period compared to long-acting products.

However, the use of an exit drench is highly recommended two weeks after the end of the protection period stated on the label.

Check the persistence of a product

The effectiveness of the persistent product on your property will be shown by the length of the protection period actually achieved (rather than what is claimed on the product label). Where the persistent product contains an active/s available in other products as a short-acting formulation (e.g. albendazole and abamectin) or with mid-length activity (e.g. moxidectin) then a DrenchTest can simply include these drenches rather than the persistent products.

The schedule to test the length of protection provided by persistent products on your property depends on if you know the efficacy of the drench active.

  • Where the DrenchTest results indicate that the active/s are effective on your property (i.e. reduced worm egg count by at least 98%) then conduct a WormTest at 30, 60 and 90 days after treatment. If it is shown to be ineffective at the earlier test, then the later tests will be of no value.
  • If you do not have current DrenchTest results you should do a WormTest at 14, 30, 60 and 90 days after treatment. If it is shown to be ineffective at one of the earlier tests, then the later test/s will be of no value.

When you send the samples, request a larval culture if there is a positive worm egg count because:

  • Resistance may only be present in one worm species.
  • If moxidectin was used, the protection period against different worm species differs.
  • If closantel is used, it is a narrow spectrum drench only for barber’s pole worm.

If the treatment was fully effective, and you used a primer and exit drench, the product will probably have a similar length of effectiveness at the next use. However, it is best to check the effectiveness of long-acting products every year they are used by doing a WormTest at 30 and 60 days.

If a WormTest shows worm eggs are present before the end of the claimed protection period, drench resistance is likely. You should:

  1. Immediately drench the sheep with an exit drench (as described earlier), keep them in their current paddock for a further 3–4 days (while most eggs pass in the dung), then move them to another paddock. This will stop more drench-resistant worm eggs from contaminating the pasture.
  2. Spell the pasture for at least 2 months to allow many of the drench-resistant larvae to die. The next animals to graze this paddock should have a moderate worm burden, with their last treatment not being from the same drench group as the long-acting product. This will help to dilute the resistant-worm eggs already on the pasture.
  3. Seek veterinary advice on further use of this product.

At any time that you are concerned that a mid-length or long-acting treatment is not providing protection, WormTest immediately and seek professional advice regarding drench resistance.