For years parasite control in ruminants was done largely by chemotherapeutic means. Being primarily successful and with the development of anthelmintics and other drugs in the private domain, there was little incentive in the public and academic sector to do dedicated research in this discipline; the consequences included a decline in capacity and ageing of knowledgeable scientists.
Recently though, the dwindling of capacity raised concern, largely because of the worldwide and local observations of progressive resistance of internal and external parasites to the drugs on the market. This called for alternative and holistic approaches which, amongst others, may include limited and more strategic drug application, biological and phytochemical measures, selection and genomic investigations for more resistant animals, feed additives and effective pasture management.
The concern was shared by the ruminant livestock industries which supported the principle of establishing a chair in Parasite Resistance at the Veterinary Faculty. The idea was strongly supported by the dean of the University of Pretoria Veterinary Faculty at Onderstepoort, and the practicality of establishing a chair was investigated. Although it may remain a goal, it was soon realized that it would take time and a large budget for effective implementation.
To effect early implementation at low cost, a post-doctoral position was created to which Dr. Charles Byaruhanga was appointed. His task would be to initiate research, train Master’s and PhD students, and coordinate country-wide research and development towards a common goal of attaining alternative and adaptive control methods within a holistic framework.
To support Dr. Byaruhanga and to define priorities, a workshop was held at Onderstepoort on 11 May 2018. Well-known and experienced scientists in the field of parasite control attended. They were unanimous for a future approach emphasising prevention rather than treatment. Where treatment is necessary, it should be selective, targeting only animals which really need treatment as identified with methods such as the FAMACHA® system and activity monitoring. The workshop also discussed inadequacies in training of parasitology, immunology, resistance physiology/genetics, and adaptive management of ruminants as limitations in curricula of veterinary training. Accordingly, these disciplines should also be addressed in curricula of animal scientists, animal technicians and diploma students at agriculture colleges.
Structurally, outcomes of the workshop envisaged a steering committee and work groups to address research and development priorities, curricula development, extension and farmer training, and fund raising. The future title of the programme will be Sustainable Integrated Parasite Management (SIPM). –Dr. Heinz Meissner.