Nutritional sensitivity of resistance to Trichostrongylus colubriformis in lactating ewes
It has been suggested that the periparturient breakdown of immunity to parasites has a nutritional basis. Our overall hypothesis is that it results from a prioritized scarce metabolizable protein (MP) allocation to reproductive functions (e.g. milk production) rather than to immune functions. We have earlier shown that the relationship between MP supply, milk production and resistance to the abomasal nematode Teladorsagia circumcincta provides support for this hypothesis. Because nutritional sensitivity of resistance to parasites may differ between parasite species, we used the same nutritional protocol to test the overall hypothesis with a different parasite. Thus, five levels of dietary MP, ranging from 0.60 to 1.2 times assumed requirements, were offered for 4 weeks post-parturition to twin-rearing Greyface ewes, experimentally infected with the small intestinal nematode Trichostrongylus colubriformis. We hypothesized that the initial increments of MP supply would increase milk production without affecting the degree of breakdown of immunity whilst later increments would reduce the degree of breakdown of immunity. Indeed, the data suggest that the first two increments of MP supply increased milk production, whilst final worm burdens were reduced from the second increment onwards. MP supply did not affect mucosal mast cell concentration but increased globule leukocyte concentration. These results support the overall hypothesis that scarce MP allocation is prioritized to milk production over immune functions. In addition, the contrast between effects of MP supply on resistance to T. colubriformis and to T circumcincta supports the view that periparturient immunity to small intestinal nematodes may be less sensitive to nutrient scarcity than periparturient immunity to abomasal nematodes. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.