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Vet Parasitol. 2000 Jul 4;90(4):271-84.

The impact of internal parasites on the productivity of young cattle organically reared on semi-natural pastures in Sweden.

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Department of Parasitology (SWEPAR), National Veterinary Institute and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala.


A grazing experiment with young cattle was conducted over two consecutive (1997, 1998) grazing seasons on semi-natural pasturelands in central-eastern Sweden. Comparisons were made between groups of animals that were either untreated and set-stocked, ivermectin bolus treated and set-stocked or untreated but moved in mid-summer (mid-July) to ungrazed pasture. The whole experimental area had remained virtually free of cattle during the previous two seasons and the cattle had been raised indoors since birth. To introduce low-levels of parasite infection into the experimental system, each animal received a 'priming dose' of approximately 10, 000 infective trichostrongylid larvae at the time of turnout for both years. Results of the first year study showed that the level of parasitism was so low that it failed to induce any productivity losses in both groups of untreated cattle, which grew as well as those given boluses at turnout. In contrast, in 1998 both groups of untreated cattle suffered varying degrees of sub-clinical and clinical parasitism to result in an average of 30kg liveweight depression, compared with the bolus treated cattle, at the end of the season. The only major departure between the two years was that in the latter, the cattle in the untreated groups were exposed to infective larval pickup, which had overwintered on pasture. Cattle in the move treatment grazed in the same sequence on pastures used by similar classes of animals during the previous year. That is, their pastures at turnout had not been grazed since mid-summer of the previous year. Clearly this early season (1997) grazing by young cattle resulted in sufficient overwintered larvae at the start of the following year (1998) to cause productivity losses of the same magnitude as those recorded for young cattle grazing on pastures contaminated for the entire grazing season of the previous year. This was confirmed by tracer tests that were carried out on all treatments, at the time of turnout and the mid-summer move in 1999. These results have major significance to organic cattle producers in Sweden who have a much higher tendency to practice a variety of grazing management techniques aimed at controlling nematode parasite infections in young cattle, than their conventional farming colleagues. It has been identified that one of these strategies is to simply use summer/autumn saved pastures for young stock at turnout, which if grazed by young stock prior to this, could prove to be counter-productive.

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