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Detecting the drench resistance

Farmers in Wairarapa and across New Zealand are being urged to test the effectiveness of their drenches, off the back of new research from Mosgiel company Techion that concludes the NZ sheep sector is losing $98 million a year in revenue due to undetected drench resistance.

In the past three years, Techion founder and chief executive Greg Mirams said the business has seen triple drench failure increase from 15 per cent of properties to 27 per cent in 2023.

The data was supplied from Techion’s DrenchSmart service, a faecal egg count reduction test that identifies which drenches are working to fight parasites and which are not.

The research notes that Kiwi farmers have used drenches for decades to tackle parasite problems, but this often means treating animals even if they aren’t affected.

In 2020, Techion reported the cost of undetected drench resistance was $48 million a year.

That same year, the business developed a parasite testing platform called FECPAKG2.

“When drenches are failing due to drench resistance, farmers often struggle to understand what is going wrong,” Mirams said.

“The critical part is knowing which drenches are working and which are not. It’s one of the biggest issues facing animal production on the planet.”

Mirans also stated the idea that triple drench will work is gone, and signs of the problem usually become apparent when farmers experience poor lamb performance in late autumn or in hoggets or ewes during winter.

“With limited effective quarantine protection in place, farmers are often unwittingly importing triple drench resistance onto their properties.

“Many farmers have not tested whether their drenches are effective and, as a result, are suffering production losses they are not aware of,” Mirams said.

Wormwise programme manager Ginny Dodunski said farms using untested, partially effective drenches will not see visual signs until things are quite serious.

“If a drench is only 70 per cent effective, each time that drench is given it’s effectively leaving 30 per cent of the worms behind.

“These [worms] then have three weeks to continue to breed and lay eggs,” Dodunski said.

“If you’re drenching every 28 days, it’s obvious how quickly resistance can build up.”

While drench failure is becoming more widespread, Mirams believes there are more sustainable and cost-effective options for farmers to improve productivity and reduce costs.

This includes better nutrition of breeding stock, grazing management, pasture types, stock class options, cross-grazing, and genetics, Mirams said.

The reduction in drench effectiveness is a hard pill to swallow for many New Zealand farmers.

Mirams said the reduction impacts farmer mental health and wellbeing, as well as the performance of their stock.

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