Thesis: Sustainable gastrointestinal nematode control with a focus on the contribution of dung beetles
Gastrointestinal nematodes cost the Australian red meat industries upwards of $500 million per annum and can negatively affect the health and welfare of livestock. These nematodes have shown resistance towards anthelmintics, a type of veterinary drug targeted at gastrointestinal nematodes. This reduces the effectiveness of these drugs, which consequently has led to the incorporation of sustainable methods like targeted-selective-treatment (TST). TST involves the increased monitoring of stock and limiting treatments to only those animals that may be more at-risk or show clinical signs of infection. Dung beetles have been shown to reduce gastrointestinal nematode larvae on pasture through their dung removal services. Despite this, there does not appear to be much research investigating the role that these beetles could play in sustainable gastrointestinal nematode control, especially where resistant nematode strains are present.
A multidisciplinary approach using a combination of surveys, glasshouse and mesocosm experiments will be employed to investigate how dung beetles can contribute to sustainable gastrointestinal nematode control. Current farmer practices and perceptions of dung beetles will be identified and the extent to which dung beetles may provide suitable and effective pest control in the presence and absence of chemical controls will be quantified.
Why my research is important
This study will contribute to the agricultural field by providing additional options for farmers to effectively manage gastrointestinal nematodes in their livestock under sustainable, low-input practices. It is anticipated that this could relieve the current reliance on chemical controls, slow the growth of anthelmintic resistance, and provide win-win scenarios for farmers and dung beetle communities.