Consequences of infection pressure and protein nutrition on periparturient resistance to Teladorsagia circumcincta and performance in ewes
The consequences of protein nutrition on the degree of periparturient relaxation of immunity to nematode parasites in sheep may be more pronounced at higher levels of infection pressure. Here, we investigated interactive effects of metabolizable protein (MP) nutrition and infection pressure on resistance and lactational performance of ewes. Twin-rearing ewes were trickle infected with either 1000, 5000 or 10,000 infective Teladorsagia circumcincta larvae and fed either at 0.8 (low protein, LP) or 1.3 (high protein, HP) times their estimated MP requirement. Expected interactions between feeding treatment and infection pressure were not observed. Periparturient relaxation of immunity, as indicated by variation in faecal egg counts, was higher in LP ewes than in HP ewes and FEC showed an inverse relationship with infection pressure indicating possible density dependency effects on worm fecundity. Plasma pepsinogen concentration linearly increased with infection pressure. Daily total nematode egg excretion, assessed at week three of lactation, was not significantly affected by infection pressure but was reduced by 65% in HP ewes compared to LP ewes. MP supplementation improved lamb performance but had little effect on ewe body weight and plasma protein concentrations, whilst lactational performance, as judged from lamb performance, tended to be reduced with increased infection pressure. The results suggest periparturient MP supplementation to ewes reduces nematode egg excretion independent of infection pressure and improves lactational performance of parasitized ewes even in the presence of moderate MP scarcity. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.