Consequences of protein supplementation for anorexia, expression of immunity and plasma leptin concentrations in parasitized ewes of two breeds
The periparturient relaxation of immunity (PPRI) against parasites in ewes has a nutritional basis. We investigated whether ewes experience a reduction in food intake (anorexia) during PPRI and if the magnitude of anorexia is affected by host production potential and dietary protein supplementation. We also investigated whether nematode infection is linked to plasma leptin concentrations in periparturient ewes. The experiment was a 2 X 2 X 2 factorial design. Two breeds of twin-bearing/lactating ewes (Greyface cross, G (n 32) and Scottish Blackface, B (n 32)) were used. Half of the ewes were trickle infected with 30 000 larvae of the abomasal parasite Teladorsagia circumcincta per week and the other half were not. During the experiment, all ewes had ad libitum access to a low-protein diet that provided less protein than the recommended allowance. In addition, half of the ewes received a protein supplement that resulted in protein intakes that exceeded recommendations. Nematode infection resulted in a breakdown of immunity to parasites and a reduction in food intake in both breeds. The breeds differed in the extent of PPRI (G ewes having higher faecal egg counts than B ewes), but not in the magnitude of anorexia. Protein supplementation resulted in a reduction in faecal egg counts, but had no effect on the magnitude of anorexia. Plasma leptin concentrations changed significantly over time, but were not affected by protein supplementation or infection. It is concluded that infection with T. circumcincta in periparturient ewes results in anorexia that is not alleviated by protein supplementation and seems unrelated to plasma leptin concentrations.