Skip to main content Accessibility help

The effects of cold exposure, food allowance and litter size on immunity of periparturient sheep to Teladorsagia circumcincta and Trichostrongylus colubriformis

  • H. L. Xie (a1), M. Stankiewicz (a1), J. F. Huntley (a1), J. R. Sedcole (a1), R. W. McAnulty (a1), R. S. Green (a1) and A. R. Sykes (a1)...


Sixty twin- and 60 single-bearing ewes were used in a 2 ✕ 2 ✕ 2 factorial design incorporating nutritional and shearing-cold exposure treatment (no. = 15 per subgroup) to study the effects on periparturient immunity against nematode infection. From week –8 to week –4 relative to parturition, animals grazed ryegrass-white clover pastures at allowances designed to provide either 0·8 (low allowance) or 1·2 (high allowance) of estimated metabolizable energy requirement for a ewe carrying 1·5 lambs. During week –4, half the sheep from each reproductive effort and nutritional group were shorn and exposed to artificial wind and rain for 4 h on each of 4 days consecutively. During the same week, all animals were challenged twice with 1·5 ✕ 104 Teladorsagia circumcincta and 1·5 ✕ 104 Trichostrongylus colubriformis infective third stage larvae to supplement the natural infection from pasture. From week –3 to week + 5 relative to parturition the sheep were run together and offered pasture at rates estimated to enable them to meet their nutrient requirement.

Shearing and cold stress reduced ewe body weight (by up to 4·66 kg per sheep), and temporarily reduced the levels of IgA against T. circumcincta (by proportionately 0·24) and T. colubriformis (0·34), and raised faecal egg count (1·6 to 4·4 fold) but did not affect the parasite-specific total antibody levels in the serum. The low allowance during pregnancy was associated with a 6·09-kg decrease in ewe body weight, decrease in the levels of total antibody and of IgA against both T. circumcincta and T. colubriformis, and increased faecal egg count (by 1·5 to 10·6 fold) during pregnancy and lactation. Faecal egg count was consistently higher (up to 8·8 fold) in twin-bearing and rearing ewes than in single-bearing and rearing ewes except during the first 4 weeks of the experiment. A significant effect of litter size on antibody levels was relatively small when compared with short-term changes (reductions) in antibody levels immediately around parturition. There were significant negative correlations between faecal egg count during late pregnancy and ewe body weight in lactation and significant negative correlations between the levels of total antibody against T. colubriformis and faecal egg counts near the end of the experiment. We conclude that litter size is likely to have greater influence on the resistance of ewes to nematode infections in the periparturient period than either pasture allowance or cold stress within the range of parameters used in this work.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author. E-mail:


Hide All
Agricultural and Food Research Council. 1993. Energy and protein requirements of ruminants. An advisory manual prepared by the AFRC Technical Committee on Responses to Nutrients. CAB International, Wallingford.
Arnold, G. W. 1984. Regulation of forage intake. In Bioenergetics of wild herbivores (ed. Hudson, R. J. and White, R. G.), pp. 81102. CRC Press Inc., Boca Raton.
Barry, T. N. and Manley, T. R. 1985. Glucose and protein-metabolism during late pregnancy in triplet-bearing ewes given fresh forage ad-lib. 1. Voluntary intake and birthweight. British Journal of Nutrition 54: 521533.
Blecha, F. and Kelley, K. W. 1979. Influence of cold and weaning stressors on the humoral immune system of swine. Journal of Animal Science 49: (suppl. 1) 183.
Blecha, F. and Kelley, K. W. 1981. Effects of cold and weaning stressors on the antibody-mediated immune response of pigs. Journal of Animal Science 53: 439447.
Bown, M. D., Poppi, D. P. and Sykes, A. R. 1991. The effect of post-ruminal infusion of protein or energy on the pathophysiology of Trichostrongylus colubriformis infection and body composition in lambs. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 42: 253267.
Brunsdon, R. V. 1970. The spring rise phenomenon: seasonal changes in the worm burdens of breeding ewes and in the availability of pasture infection. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 18: 4754.
Brunsdon, R. V. and Vlassoff, A. 1971. The post-parturient rise: a comparison of the pattern and relative generic composition of strongyle egg output from lactating and non-lactating ewes. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 19: 1925.
Calder, P. C. 1995. Fuel utilisation by cells of the immune system. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 54: 6582.
Chen, X. B. and Ørskov, E. R. 1994. Amino acid nutrition in sheep. In Amino acids in farm animal nutrition (ed. D’Mello, J. P. F.), pp. 307328. CAB International, Wallingford, Oxon.
Ciupercescu, D. D. 1977. Dynamics of serum immunoglobulin concentrations in sheep during pregnancy and lactation. Research in Veterinary Science 22: 2327.
Donaldson, J., Houtert, M. F. J. van and Sykes, A. R. 1998. The effect of nutrition on the periparturient parasite status of mature ewes. Animal Science 67: 523533.
Donaldson, J., Houtert, M. F. J. van and Sykes, A. R. 2001. The effect of dietary fish-meal supplementation on parasite burdens of periparturient sheep. Animal Science 72: 149158.
Douch, P. G. C., Green, R. S. and Risdon, P. L. 1994. Antibody responses of sheep to challenge with Trichostrongylus colubriformis and the effect of dexamethasone treatment. International Journal for Parasitology 24: 921928.
Familton, A. S. and McAnulty, R. A. 1996. Some challenges to current understanding of nematode epidemiology from Canterbury. Proceedings of the 26th seminar of the Sheep and Beef Cattle Society of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, pp. 7381.
Gibbs, H. C. and Barger, I. A. 1986. Haemonchus contortus and other trichostrongylid infections in parturient, lactating and dry ewes. Veterinary Parasitology 22: 5766.
Houdijk, J. G. M., Kyriazakis, I., Coop, R. L. and Jackson, F. 2001a. The expression of immunity to Teladorsagia circumcincta in ewes and its relationship to protein nutrition depend on body protein reserves. Parasitology 122: 661672.
Houdijk, J. G. M., Kyriazakis, I., Jackson, F. and Coop, R. L. 2001b. The relationship between protein nutrition, reproductive effort and breakdown in immunity to Teladorsagia circumcincta in periparturient ewes. Animal Science 72: 595606.
Houdijk, J. G. M., Kyriazakis, I., Jackson, F., Huntley, J. F. and Coop, R. L. 2000. Can an increased intake of metabolizable protein affect the periparturient relaxation in immunity against Teladorsagia circumcincta in sheep? Veterinary Parasitology 91: 4362.
Kahn, L. P., Walkden-Brown, S. W. and Lea, J. M. 2000. Dietary enhancement of resistance to Trichostrongylus colubriformis in merino weaners. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences 13: (suppl. July 2000 B) 6871.
Lawes Agricultural Trust. 2001. Genstat release 4·1, fifth edition. Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden, Hertfordshire.
Li, Y. Z., Christopherson, R. J. and Field, C. J. 2000. Effects of beta-adrenergic receptor agonist and low environmental temperature on the immune system of growing lambs. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 80: 605613.
Lopez-Soriano, F. J. and Alemany, M. 1987. Effect of cold-temperature exposure and acclimation on amino acid pool changes and enzyme activities of rat brown adipose tissue. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 925: 265271.
McAnulty, R. W., Familton, A. S., Sedcole, R. D. and Sykes, A. R. 2001. Changes in the resistance of the ewe to infection with Teladorsagia circumcincta during late pregnancy and lactation. Animal Science 72: 159168.
Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 1973. Parasitology manual. Wallaceville, New Zealand.
Morgan, G. W., Thaxton, P. and Edens, F. W. 1976. Reduced symptoms of anaphylaxis in chickens by ACTH or heat. Poultry Science 55: 14981504.
Morris, C. A., Bisset, S. A., Vlassoff, A., Baker, R. L., Watson, T. G., Leathwick, D. M. and Wheeler, M. 1997. Correlated responses in fleece weight to selection for divergence in faecal nematode egg count in New Zealand Romneys and Perendales. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 57: 2628.
Morris, C. A., Vlassoff, A., Bisset, S. A., Baker, R. L., Watson, T. G., West, C. J. and Wheeler, M. 2000. Continued selection of Romney sheep for resistance or susceptibility to nematode infection: estimates of direct and correlated responses. Animal Science 70: 1727.
O’Sullivan, B. M. and Donald, A. D. 1973. Responses to infection with Haemonchus contortu and Trichostrongylus colubriformis in ewes of different reproductive status. International Journal for Parasitology 3: 521530.
Regnier, J. A. and Kelley, K. W. 1981. Heat- and cold-stress suppresses in vivo and in vitro cellular immune responses of chickens. American Journal of Veterinary Research 42: 294299.
Regnier, J. A., Kelley, K. W. and Gaskins, C. T. 1980. Acute thermal stressors and synthesis of antibodies in chickens. Poultry Science 59: 985990.
Reid, J. F. S. and Armour, J. 1975. Seasonal variations in the gastro-intestinal nematode populations of Scottish hill sheep. Research in Veterinary Science 18: 307313.
Reynolds, G. E. and Griffin, J. F. T. 1986. Antibody responses to bacterial antigens in the pregnant ewe. New Zealand Veterinary Journal 34: 46.
Reynolds, G. E. and Griffin, J. F. T. 1990. Humoral immunity in the ewe. 2. The effect of pregnancy on the primary and secondary antibody response to protein antigen. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology 25: 155166.
Robinson, J. J. 1990. The pastoral industries in the 21st century. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 50: 345359.
Sabiston, B. H. and Rose, J. E. M. S. 1976. Effect of cold exposure on the metabolism of immunoglobulins in rabbits. Journal of Immunology 116: 106111.
Sevi, A., Taibi, L., Albenzio, M., Muscio, A., Dell’Aquila, S. and Napolitano, F. 2001. Behavioral, adrenal, immune, and productive responses of lactating ewes to regrouping and relocation. Journal of Animal Science 79: 14571465.
Strain, S. A. J. and Stear, M. J. 2001. The influence of protein supplementation on the immune response to Haemonchus contortus . Parasite Immunology 23: 527531.
Subba Rao, D. S. V. and Glick, B. 1977. Effect of cold exposure on the immune response to chickens. Poultry Science 56: 992996.
Symonds, M. E., Bryant, M. J., Shepherd, D. A. L. and Lomax, M. A. 1988. Glucose metabolism in shorn and unshorn pregnant sheep. British Journal of Nutrition 60: 249263.
Thaxton, P. 1978. Influence of temperature on the immune response of birds. Poultry Science 57: 14301440.
Thaxton, P. and Siegel, H. S. 1970. Immunodepression in young chickens by high environmental temperature. Poultry Science 49: 202205.
Wagland, B. M., Steel, J. W., Windon, R. G. and Dineen, J. K. 1984. The response of lambs to vaccination and challenge with Trichostrongylus colubriformis: effect of plane of nutrition on, and the inter-relationship between, immunological responsiveness and resistance. International Journal for Parasitology 14: 3944.
Wallace, D. S., Bairden, K., Duncan, J. L., Eckersall, P. D., Fishwick, G., Holmes, P. H., McKellar, Q. A., Mitchell, S., Murray, M., Parkins, J. J. and Stear, M. J. 1999. The influence of increased feeding on the susceptibility of sheep to infection with Haemonchus contortus . Animal Science 69: 457463.
Watson, D. L. and Lascelles, A. K. 1973. Mechanisms of transfer of immunoglobulins into mammary secretion of ewes. Australian Journal of Experimental Biology and Medical Science 51: 247254.
Weston, R. H. 1982. Animal factors affecting feed intake. In Nutritional limits to animal production from pastures (ed. Hacker, J. B.), pp. 183198. CAB, Farnham Royal, Slough.
Wheeler, J. L., Reardon, T. F. and Lambourne, L. J. 1963. The effect of pasture availability and shearing stress on herbage intake of grazing sheep. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 14: 364372.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed