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Sub-clinical parasitism in farmed red deer at the Centre for Sustainability

Sub-clinical parasitism in farmed red deer

Principal investigator: Dr Marion Johnson

Brief abstract

Parasitic infections are a major constraint on animal production systems worldwide. 

In New Zealand, infection with lungworms (Dictyocaulus spp.) has long been acknowledged as being one of the primary health problems for the venison industry.

Recent studies have also indicated the increasing role infection by gastro-intestinal nematodes plays in depressing weight gains.

The aims of the study are threefold:

  1. To determine the effects of sub-clinical parasitism on the productivity of young farmed red deer

  2. To investigate the relationship between diagnostic parameters, such as faecal egg and larvae counts, haematology and serum biochemistry to actual worm burdens.

  3. To assess the likelihood of the currently available tests being effective tools to monitor sub-clinical and clinical parasitism in farmed deer.

Although parasites can be controlled by the use of chemical anthelminthics, resistance to them is spreading rapidly, reducing their efficacy.

New Zealand venison is marketed as a natural product and sold primarily into Western Europe, so it is sensible to reduce its use.

There are approximately 1.7 million deer, and 90% of the production is exported, so it is vital to develop sustainable, sensible parasite management programmes to support the industry.