The epidemiology of ostertagiasis in south west Scotland was studied in groups of cattle grazed through two successive grazing seasons separated by a period of winter housing. Towards the end of the first grazing season (September) the numbers of infective larvae (L3) on the pasture had increased to high levels (up to 24,000 L3 per kg) which resulted in high faecal egg counts, worm burdens, plasma pepsinogen levels and the occurrence of clinical ostertagiasis in the calves. By late spring (May) at the onset of the second grazing season, there was an almost complete mortality of the overwintered L3 on the pasture followed by the appearance of moderately high numbers of a new population of L3 in September (up to 9000 L3 per kg). The latter increase in the numbers of L3 was reflected by negligible faecal egg counts, low worm burdens and a moderate elevation of plasma pepsinogens in the second year animals. It therefore seems that although young cattle acquire a good immunity to Ostertagia ostertagi after one season at grass the small infections established in the early part of the second season are capable of contaminating the pasture to levels which could be dangerous for susceptible stock. An allergic reaction in the abomasal mucosa could be the basis of the elevated pepsinogens present in the second year animals.
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