The effect of dietary forage on the development and survival of helminth parasites in ovine faeces

Christina L. Marley, Roger Cook, John Barrett, R. Keatinge, Nic H. Lampkin, Sebastian D. McBride

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Studies in New Zealand and the UK have shown that lambs grazing birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) or chicory (Cichorium intybus) have reduced parasite intensities compared to lambs grazing ryegrass swards. However, data in the literature on the influence of forages on helminth parasites is equivocal and the underlying mechanisms by which different forage diets may affect these parasites have not been fully determined. The aim of the experiments reported here was to investigate the hypothesis that the consumption of these forages does not affect the hatching and development of helminth eggs in the faeces subsequently produced by the host animal. Lambs grazed monoculture swards of birdsfoot trefoil, chicory, Italian ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum)/red clover (Trifolium pratense) or perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne)/white clover (Trifolium repens) for 5 weeks and faecal samples collected on days 14, 21, 28 and 35 directly from the rectum of each lamb were used to prepare replicate cultures for each forage type on each occasion. The experiment was repeated over two consecutive years but ryegrass/red clover was not included in Year 2. The dry matter of all faeces was made constant and the faeces were cultured at 27 °C for 7 days, before larvae were extracted, counted and identified according to genus or, where possible, species. Overall, the results showed that forage diet had no effect on egg hatchability but significantly affected the development/survival of infective helminth larvae in the faeces of the host animal. Furthermore, feeding birdsfoot trefoil to lambs was found to increase the percentage of helminth parasites that reached the infective stage in the subsequent faeces compared to other forages. Further work is needed to assess whether this would increase the number of larvae on birdsfoot trefoil swards overall under field conditions and to understand the implications of these findings in an applied farming system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-107
Number of pages14
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1-2
Early online date19 Nov 2003
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2003


  • gastrointestinal helminths
  • internal parasites
  • sheet
  • chicory
  • birdsfoot trefoil


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