Parasite update on conference agenda

Parasites and drenching are likely to be one of the topics of conversation at the inaugural NZGoats conference in Queenstown later this month.

The conference is to be held from May 23 to 25 and is being run by Federated Farmers' goat industry groups in association with Meat Goat New Zealand and the New Zealand Boer Goat Breeders Association.

One of the speakers is AgResearch senior scientist Richard Shaw, of Palmerston North, who will update the conference with his work on Carla saliva tests for goats.

Based at the Hopkirk Research Centre at Massey University, Mr Shaw has researched parasite immunology for 27 years.

Following the discontinuation of the wool and goat meat levy in 2010, Beef + Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) distributed about $115,000 of unspent goat levy money to five projects, including three which looked at parasites and drenching in goats, in 2011.

AgResearch was given $20,000 for parasite research.

In addition to the BLNZ grant, AgResearch also received funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund for a three-year project that looked at the Carla (carbohydrate larval antigen) saliva test for goats in 2013.

''The Carla test measures the level of antibodies, which developed in Angora goats in response to larval challenges,'' Mr Shaw said.

The research also looked at trait heritability in relation to parasites in Angora goats and if there were correlations with other traits.

Research also included whether there was a correlation between antibody levels with faecal egg counts in dairy goats. Mr Shaw said research for the Carla saliva test, which was initially developed for sheep, showed that some animals coped better with parasites and that those with high levels of antibodies were better able to resist the larval challenge.

That meant farmers could select animals that suffered less from the effects of parasites and passed fewer worm eggs into the pasture.

''However, there is still a lot of work to be done,'' Mr Shaw said.

''So far, we have found that the response in goats is a bit weaker than it is in sheep and it takes longer for younger animals to develop it.

''A young lamb of about six months old is showing some sort of immunity to the larvae challenge, but goats need to wait at least 12 months.

''That is just a reflection that the goat has evolved as a browser rather than a grazer, so its immune response is a bit weaker.''

Carla testing was seasonal, with the larval challenge high in April, May, June and July.

- by Yvonne O'Hara