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Exploiting the effect of dietary supplementation of small ruminants on resilience and resistance against gastrointestinal nematodes

Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2006.04.026
  • Gastrointestinal Nematodes
  • Resilience
  • Resistance
  • Goat
  • Sheep
  • Browsing
  • Grazing
  • Nutrition
  • Biology
  • Economics
  • Medicine


Abstract This paper focuses on targeted nutritional supplementation as a means to reduce the requirement for chemotherapeutic control of gastrointestinal nematode infection of small ruminants and considers the limitations to practical application. Supplementary feeding, particularly with additional dietary protein, can assist resilience to infection during times when metabolic resources are being directed towards dealing with the pathophysiological effects of infection and away from production of meat, milk and fibre. Substantial experimental evidence from studies of both sheep and goats supports this hypothesis particularly in relation to young lambs and kids after weaning and in ewes around parturition. In addition, nutritional supplementation frequently increases resistance to infection, as indicated by decreased faecal worm egg counts and worm burdens. As a result, supplementation has the potential to reduce the requirement for anthelmintic treatment. Practical application of this knowledge can, however, be quite complex in many small ruminant production systems. In general, strategic supplementation should target those times when nutrient requirements are greatest and provide those nutrients which are deficient whether protein, energy, minerals or trace elements. Complexity arises when we consider that nutrient requirements will differ between localities for different species and breed of host, at different stages of growth and reproduction, with differing seasonal availability of forage, with different species of nematodes and different levels of established infections and exposure to infective stages. As a starting point, the provision of nutrients to optimize rumen function and animal performance in the particular production system should assist in maintaining resilience to nematode infection. Provision of nutrients in excess of this requirement, if economically feasible, may yield further benefits in some situations and reduce the need for alternative control measures for gastrointestinal nematode parasites.

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