Reduced Ostertagia circumcincta burdens in milk-fed lambs

Reduced Ostertagia circumcincta burdens in milk-fed lambs
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS:  To compare the susceptibility to parasitism by Ostertagia circumcincta of lambs fed entirely with bovine milk or weaned on to solid feed at 3 weeks of age. In addition, the effect of a single daily feed of milk on worm burdens was assessed.
METHODS:  Eight lambs were assigned to each of the 3 diets: milk (M), milk plus solid feed (cereal-based pellets and lucerne chaff) (MS), or solid feed only (S). Those to be fed solid feed were converted from complete milk feeding to the designated diet during their third week of life. From 3 weeks of age, all lambs were infected with 1000 O. circumcincta larvae twice weekly for 6 weeks; 4 lambs from each diet group were given normal sheathed L3 and another 4 were infected with exsheathed larvae. Faecal egg counts (FEC) and serum gastrin and pepsinogen concentrations were monitored from Day 17 after first infection, and worm burdens and abomasal pH and morphology were determined at necropsy.
RESULTS:  Total worm burdens and FEC were significantly lower in the M than MS and S groups, whereas there was no significant difference between those receiving sheathed and exsheathed larvae. The milk-fed lambs had a smaller reticulo-rumen and omasum and a more acidic abomasal pH. Serum gastrin and pepsinogen were increased in all groups, irrespective of diet or type of larvae used for infection.
CONCLUSIONS: The cause of the lower worm establishment in lambs fed only milk was probably not failure to exsheath in the immature gastro-intestinal tract, as there were similar worm burdens in lambs whether sheathed or exsheathed larvae were administered. The lower pH of the abomasal contents of the preruminant lambs may have been a factor, as the parasites have previously been shown to die more rapidly in vitro at low pH. Alternatively, the milk itself had adverse effects on the parasites, but was ineffective when combined with solid feed. There was no benefit from feeding a milk plus solid diet over a solid diet.
KEY WORDS: Nematoda, lambs, Ostertagia circumcincta, abomasum, milk.

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