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The objective of this study was to determine the prevailing levels of infection with Ostertagia ostertagi in first-season grazing calves and related management factors in three European countries (Belgium, Germany and Sweden). A cross-sectional survey was performed in first-season grazing dairy cattle during 2 consecutive years. Levels of infection with O. ostertagi were assessed by a standardized serum pepsinogen assay at the end of the grazing periods 2006 and 2007 and information on control measures against gastrointestinal nematodes were collected at the same time through a questionnaire. Information was collected from a total of 358 herds in 2006 and 726 herds in 2007. The general infection patterns were similar in the different countries and the 2 years with the majority of the herds having a low (<1 UTyr) or intermediate pepsinogen result (1-3 UTyr) and only 2-6% of the herds having levels of infection that are considered to induce significant production losses (>3 UTyr). The level of nematode control was high in each country, which is illustrated by the widespread use of anthelmintics (69-83% of herds) and the frequent combination of anthelmintic use and control through pasture management (>50% of herds combined two or more protective measures). However, the used control methods showed clear differences between the countries. After taking into account the effect of anthelmintic treatment, herd mean pepsinogen levels were significantly lower in large herds, in calves grazing on a small paddock (vs. pasture) and on mown (vs. non-mown) pastures and if turn out on pasture was postponed. The collected data may serve as a baseline from which we can monitor the methods and success of gastrointestinal nematode control in dairy cattle.
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