Gastrointestinal nematode infections of first-season grazing calves in Belgium: general patterns and the effect of chemoprophylaxis

D J Shaw, J Vercruysse, E Claerebout, J Agneessens, P Dorny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Comparative analyses of the patterns of gastrointestinal nematode infections of first-grazing season cattle in Belgium are presented. The analysis involves 17 studies covering a 10 year period on 13 different farms in Flanders, Belgium. In all studies the calves were divided into an untreated control group, and one or two groups treated with chemoprophylactic systems. Two general infection levels emerged-'sub-clinical' (14 studies) and 'clinical' (three studies). The 'sub-clinical' infections were characterised by no clinical signs of parasitic gastroenteritis in the untreated control groups. Mean faecal egg counts remained low (less than 200), maximum pepsinogen levels only reached about 3500 mU tyrosine, and very small reductions in overall daily weight gain were observed compared with calves given chemoprophylaxis (less than 40 g day-1). Based on these results, on these 'sub-clinical' farms, chemoprophylaxis may not have been needed. In contrast, multiple salvage treatments of the control calf groups were required in the 'clinical' infections. Even with these salvage treatments mean faecal egg counts were high (more than 300), maximum pepsinogen levels were over 5500 mU tyrosine and there was a very large reduction in overall daily weight gain (more than 300 g day-1). However, it was not possible to predict either at turnout, or during the first month afterwards whether an infection on a particular farm would develop into a 'clinical' infestation. With the present data this prediction was possible from 8 weeks (Day 56) onwards, based on faecal egg counts and pasture larval contamination. It was also possible to predict using serum pepsinogen levels on Day 84. Therefore, one possible strategy for the effective control of gastrointestinal nematode infections of calves in temperate regions would be to evaluate faecal egg counts 2 months after turnout, and then only start treatment (i.e. metaphylaxis) if required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-16
Number of pages14
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1997


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