Infections with gastrointestinal roundworms are an important cause of production losses in sheep and cattle. Worm control is a vital part of health and production management in sheep flocks and cattle herds in the UK, and good control is highly dependent on effective anthelmintics. Unfortunately, a direct and unavoidable consequence of using anthelmintics to control worm populations is selection for individuals that are resistant to the chemicals used. If left unchecked, anthelmintic resistance (AR) could prove to be one of the biggest challenges to sheep and cattle production and animal welfare within the UK. As a consequence of increasing reports of AR in sheep, a working group, "SCOPS" (sustainable control of parasites in sheep) was formed in 2003 with representatives from the UK sheep industry to promote practical guidelines for sheep farmers and their advisors. This led to the production of guidelines for 'sustainable worm control strategies for sheep' intended for veterinarians and sheep advisors, plus ongoing promotional literature aimed at farmers. Whilst there is some evidence of emerging resistance in roundworms of cattle, it appears to still be at a very low level in the UK. However the potential presence of such AR in cattle worms has been seen as a timely warning, which if ignored, could lead to a not dissimilar AR situation to that seen in sheep, and in other cattle areas around the world. Reports of AR in UK cattle nematodes have generally been limited to a small number of anecdotal reports of treatment failure with some macrocyclic lactone (ML) products, especially those formulated as pour-on preparations, and invariably involving the dose-limiting species, Cooperia oncophora. As a consequence of these observations, guidelines have been produced similar to those for sheep, for sustainable worm control strategies for cattle "COWS" (control of worms sustainably), and were launched in May 2010. Uptake and effectiveness of SCOPS recommendations are currently being monitored in collaboration with the UK animal health industry, and similar proposals are being considered for uptake of COWS guidelines following the launch this year.
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