Research on the prevention of gastrointestinal nematode infections of cattle has mainly concentrated on comparing a specific chemoprophylactic treatment system to an untreated control group on a particular farm. Here, the results from analysis of 85 studies involving over 2000 first grazing season (FGS) calves put onto pasture for at least 4 months from late spring/early summer over a 26-year period in 13 countries in Western Europe are presented. Both control and chemoprophylactic treated FGS calf groups were considered. All chemoprophylactic systems (slow- and pulse-release boli, strategic treatments) were given early in the grazing season. Two general infection levels emerged--'sub-clinical' (32 studies) and 'clinical' (53 studies). The 'sub-clinical' infections were characterised by no clinical symptoms of parasitic gastroenteritis (PGE) being observed in the control groups. Mean faecal egg counts in the 'clinical' control groups were significantly higher than those for 'sub-clinical' control groups for almost the entire season with overall peaks of 275 and 100 EPG respectively. Maximum pasture larval counts were also significantly higher in the 'clinical' control groups with 44% of 'clinical' pastures > 10,000 L3 kg(-1) dry herbage by the end of the FGS, compared to only 15% of 'sub-clinical' pastures. There was a significant positive relationship between log transformed worm burdens from tracers put onto pastures for 2 weeks and the corresponding pasture larval count. No evidence of density dependence in tracer worm burden was observed. Weight gains in the 'clinical' control groups (375 g/day) were significantly lower than those of the 'sub-clinical' control groups (530 g/day). No symptoms of PGE were observed in any of the chemoprophylactic treated groups, but in those studies with an outbreak of PGE in the control group, the treated groups had significantly higher faecal egg and pasture larval counts than treated groups in 'sub-clinical' studies. The overall weight gain in chemoprophylactic treated calves in 'clinical' studies (600 g/day) was significantly lower than the chemoprophylactic treated calves in 'sub-clinical' studies (690 g/day), and was not significantly different from the weight gain of control calves in 'sub-clinical' studies. These results indicate that on heavily infected pastures, chemoprophylaxis will prevent PGE, but calves will still suffer production losses.