Background: The level of anthelmintic resistance within some cyathostomin parasite populations has increased to the level where sole reliance on anthelmintic-based control protocols is not possible. Management-based nematode control methods, including removal of faeces from pasture, are widely recommended for use in association with a reduction in anthelmintic use to reduce selection pressure for drug resistance; however, very little work has been performed to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of such methods.
Methods: We analysed data obtained from 345 donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary (Devon, UK), managed under three different pasture management techniques, to investigate the effectiveness of faeces removal in strongyle control in equids. The management groups were as follows: no removal of faeces from pasture, manual, twice weekly removal of faeces from pasture and automatic, twice-weekly removal of faeces from pasture (using a mechanical pasture sweeper). From turn-out onto pasture in May, monthly faecal egg counts were obtained for each donkey and the dataset subjected to an auto regressive moving average model.
Results: There was little to no difference in faecal egg counts between the two methods of faecal removal; both resulted in significantly improved cyathostomin control compared to the results obtained from the donkeys that grazed pasture from which there was no faecal removal.
Conclusions: This study represents a valuable and unique assessment of the effectiveness of the removal of equine faeces from pasture, and provides an evidence base from which to advocate twice-weekly removal of faeces from pasture as an adjunct for equid nematode control. Widespread adoption of this practice could substantially reduce anthelmintic usage, and hence reduce selection pressure for nematode resistance to the currently effective anthelmintic products.