Breeding Better….Worms?

Posted by Stephen Mulholland January 30, 2013 0 Comment 1619 views

Click here to read this PDF article by Stephen Mulholland Ph.D.; Breeding Better….Worms?

An extract of this article is below, click on the link above for a pdf of the entire article.

You may not know it, but you are a breeder. It doesn’t matter if the only animals you can see out in the paddock are wethers, for those animals are full of tiny animals. These are the “worms”, the microscopic parasites that inhabit your happy stock. Your animals pass the worms’ eggs out with their faeces, and juvenile worms get back into their hosts when the grazing animals inadvertently eat them along with the grass. You are breeding worms.  You can breed them to be stronger worms, able to resist any drench we can throw at them, or you can breed weaker worms that your camelids can control on their own.

Similar to the way grasses have evolved along with grazing animals to survive being eaten, so the grazing animals have evolved alongside the parasites that inhabit them. Your alpacas are designed to carry a certain “worm burden” with no problems at all. The camelid immune system is designed to do battle with these intruders, in fact the immune system would run haywire if it did not have its usual enemy to fight against!

Problems arise when, for whatever reason, the number of worms grows greater than the animal’s immune system can handle. This is where illness and even death can occur. For the last half century we have had a quick and easy solution to the problems of worms – drench! Drench (wormer) is a family of chemicals known as anthelmintics, poison for the worms living within.

The introduction of chemical drenches helped to revolutionize farming after the Second World War. Animals could be stocked at much higher rates, and per-animal productivity increased. But it was not long before parasites started to appear that were resistant or immune to these chemical drenches. This was not a problem at first as new “families” of drench kept being invented which allowed farmers switch drench product and sidestep the issue- for a short time. Now the problem of resistance is spreading, new drench families are no longer being rapidly developed, and we all need act to preserve the health of our animals.

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