Comparison of the susceptibility of Santa Ines and Ile de France ewes to nematode parasitism around parturition and during lactation
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Breeds of sheep with resistance to nematode infection often display a reduced periparturient rise (PPR) in faecal egg counts (FEC) when compared with susceptible sheep. This trial was carried out to compare the resistance of Santa Ines, an indigenous Brazilian breed of sheep, and Ile de France ewes to natural infections by gastrointestinal nematodes, especially in the periparturient period. Twelve Santa lnes and 10 Ile de France ewes were estrus synchronized and then mated (December 2001). Lambing occurred from 30 April to 19 June 2002 and the lambs were weaned at 60 days of age. Faecal egg counts, packed cell volume (PCV), total plasma protein levels and peripheral eosinophils counts were determined from November 2001 to September 2002. To prevent deaths, individual treatment with anthelmintics was provided to ewes with FEC higher than 4000 eggs per gram (EPG) or with PCV lower than 21%. The percentage of Santa Ines ewes treated with anthelmintics was lower than that of Ile de France sheep. Eight of the 10 Ile de France ewes were treated, with one of them requiring four treatments, one requiring three treatments, and two requiring two treatments. The remaining four received a single treatment. In contrast, only 5 of the 12 Santa lnes ewes required treatment and for each this was done only once. The mean values of PCV were in the normal range in the Santa Ines ewes. In contrast, mean PCVs of Ile de France ewes reached a low of 24.5% in the second month after lambing and were significantly lower than Santa Ines 1 month before lambing (P < 0.05) and 2 months after lambing (P < 0.07). The mean plasma protein level was significantly lower in the Ile de France ewes in the second month after lambing (P < 0.01) coinciding with a reduction in PCV. The ewes of both breeds had high mean numbers of eosinophils in blood, which increased even further post-weaning when a marked reduction in FEC occurred. Haemonchus larvae were the most numerous genus in faecal cultures for both breeds followed by Trichostrongylus, Oesophagostomum and Cooperia. A periparturient rise in FEC was observed in both breeds. However, Santa Ines ewes showed a higher capacity to support the infection in an environment contaminated with large number of infective larvae of gastrointestinal nematodes. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.