Dietary impacts on the resistance of Merino lambs to Trichostrongylus colubriformis

Dietary impacts on the resistance of Merino lambs to Trichostrongylus colubriformis
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIM: To evaluate and compare the effects of a variety of diets on the resistance of young, lightweight Merino lambs to repeated low-dose infections of Trichostrongylus colubriformis.
METHODS: Ninety-six 12-week-old lambs were fed balanced or unbalanced diets, and given primary (at 19 weeks of age) or both primary (at 12 weeks) and secondary (at 19 weeks) infections of T. colubriformis. Suboptimal diets were low in total intake, rumen undegradable protein, total protein, readily available carbohydrate or minerals, or supplemented with cod liver oil. Liveweight was monitored fortnightly, protection was assessed from worm counts at the end of the study (25 weeks) and faecal nematode egg counts (FEC) conducted weekly, and mast-cell response assessed at the conclusion of the study from concentration of mast-cell protease in the jejunum. Concentrations of glucose in plasma were measured at 21 weeks.
RESULTS: Diets unbalanced for total protein, readily available carbohydrate, Mo or cod liver oil each increased the worm counts after 6 weeks of secondary infection (at 25 weeks of age) and FEC during secondary infection. Low intake of a high-nutrient diet restricted liveweight gain but did not affect the development of resistance, as indicated by worm counts and FEC. Deficiency of available carbohydrate resulted in reduced liveweight gain and reduced concentration of glucose in plasma. There was a reduction in jejunal mast-cell protease concentration in sheep fed unbalanced rations.
CONCLUSIONS: The parasitology results and reduction in the concentration of jejunal mast-cell protease observed in sheep fed unbalanced rations suggest that the nutrient deficiencies and the fish-oil supplement may have acted via inhibition or retardation of the host’s acquired immune response. Diets unbalanced for a range of components adversely affected the acquired protective response to T. colubriformis to a similar extent and appeared to involve a similar mechanism as each other. The quality of the diet was more important than quantity for the development of resistance, and soluble carbohydrate was an essential component.
KEY WORDS: Carbohydrate, nematode, nutrition, resistance, sheep

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