Scientist honoured for animal health and parasite management

AgResearch parasitologist Dr Dave Leathwick has received the 2010 McMeekan Memorial Award for his work in parasite management and drenching practices in the New Zealand sheep industry.

The prestigious award was presented to Dr Leathwick at the 70th Conference of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production in Palmerston North this week. The McMeekan Memorial Award recognizes an outstanding contribution by an individual (or team) to animal production in New Zealand.

Dr Leathwick’s research has played a vital role in developing methods of controlling parasite infestations that are estimated to cost the farming sector around $700 million a year.

Gastrointestinal nematodes are identified as the single most significant animal disease constraint on the productivity of the sheep industry with farmers spending $80 million annually on anthelmintic drugs to control worm populations.

Dr Leathwick has developed management practices to achieve sustainable control of nematode parasites in sheep and to prevent or delay the onset of drench resistance.

“My prime aim is to develop evidence-based, practical recommendations which when applied on-farm will lead to productivity increases. We are achieving this through a combination of simulation modelling done in parallel with rigorously planned and conducted field trials,” says Dr Leathwick.

Dr Leathwick’s research has seen New Zealand lead the way globally in its methods of dealing with drench resistance through adopting combination drenches and the use of refugia to manage parasites.

While most of his research has been focused on the sheep sector, the principles of drench resistance apply equally to other segments of the livestock industries.

Dr Leathwick, who is now the Team Leader of the Applied Parasitology team at AgResearch, began his research career in 1974 as a technician in the Weed Biology & Control team of MAF before going on to complete a BSc degree, with honours in zoology, at the University of Canterbury. He followed this with a PhD in entomology at Lincoln College, for his Thesis entitled ‘Applied ecology of the Tasmanian lacewing Micronomus tasmaniae Walker’.

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