Understanding next steps for sustainable gastrointestinal worm control in thoroughbred horses

  • 24 pages

  • Published: 20 Feb 2024

  • Author(s): Catriona Nicholls

  • ISBN: 978-1-76053-430-1

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The Australian thoroughbred breeding industry is responsible for generating more than $1.16 billion to the Australian economy and is the second-largest industry of its kind in the world.

One challenge placing pressure on horse welfare outcomes is gastrointestinal worms and anthelmintic resistance. The issue has been highlighted as a priority in the AgriFutures Thoroughbred Horses Program RD&E Plan (2022-2027). Understanding the needs of industry and the issues thoroughbred breeders face regarding gastrointestinal worms and anthelmintic resistance is vital to addressing these priorities.

The results of more than four years of research funded by the Program through the project Improving the detection of parasitic infections and control strategies of horses indicate resistance in intestinal parasites to commonly used dewormers is significant in all major thoroughbred breeding regions across Australia. Without an industry-wide change to on-farm parasite management, the problem will only escalate and result in serious health ramifications, particularly in young horses.

Against this backdrop, this project aimed to better understand industry concerns around gastrointestinal worms and anthelmintic resistance, and determine where the Program should direct its next investment to tackle the issue.

The results of a series of one-on-one interviews with key industry stakeholders and an Australia-wide survey of thoroughbred breeders offer insights and recommendations for strategic investments that will increase industry awareness and facilitate adoption of-best practice worm control management strategies in Australian breeding operations, to curb the development of gastrointestinal parasite resistance in thoroughbred horses.

This project highlights the need for an industry-wide approach to gastrointestinal parasite resistance, driven by a collaborative and committed taskforce and facilitated through the Program, including representation from all industry stakeholder groups (e.g. product manufacturers, veterinarians, on-farm representatives and researchers).

Slowing the development of gastrointestinal parasite resistance and prolonging the efficacy of existing dewormers will require a comprehensive education and extension program that delivers clear and consistent evidence-based guidelines for effective and strategic worm control. Such a program must be tailored to the needs, motivations and practical constraints of thoroughbred breeders and horse owners more broadly.

The outcomes and recommendations stemming from this project provide a clear way forward to address the escalating issue of worm resistance and outdated management practices adopted by on-farm decision makers, to safeguard the efficacy of existing worm control products.