Benzimidazole-based anthelmintics bound to grit (medicated grit) are annually prescribed on request by veterinary practices to grouse managers to control Trichostrongylus tenuis an intestinal parasite of red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica. Those prescribing medication typically do without knowledge of parasite loads and hence often prescribe when loads are low and unlikely to impact the host. Inappropriate use of anthelmintics in livestock has led to development of parasite resistance to anthelmintics. To encourage grouse managers to reduce anthelmintic use, the authors experimentally withdrew medication from parts of eight moors. The authors monitored parasite and grouse responses by counting eggs and adult worms and grouse mortality and breeding success. Rapid increases in parasite egg counts in early spring culminated in resuming medication at three wet, blanket-peat sites; one in the first spring and two in the second. Medication was restored, despite low parasite counts, at a fourth moor. On the remaining four moors, drier heaths in the east, parasite levels remained low, were not associated with grouse mortality, but breeding success was 16 per cent lower in years without medication. Better parasite monitoring by grouse managers and vets alike may reduce anthelmintic use, helping prevent drug resistance, but this may be off-set by reduced grouse productivity.
- red grouse
- nematode parasites
- medicated grit
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