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Growth and gastrointestinal nematode parasitism in lambs grazing either lucerne (Medicago sativa) or sulla (Hedysarum coronarium) which contains condensed tannins

  • J. H. Niezen (a1), T. S. Waghorn (a1), W. A. G. Charleston (a2) and G. C. Waghorn (a3)
Summary

Two grazing experiments were undertaken to evaluate the effects of sulla (Hedysarum coronarium) which contains condensed tannins (CT) and lucerne (Medicago sativa), which does not contain CT, on the performance of parasitized and non-parasitized lambs. The work was carried out near Palmerston North, New Zealand in 1992 and 1993.

Experiment 1 used lambs which were either genetically ‘conventional’ or ‘resistant’ to gastrointestinal nematodes and which had a naturally acquired heavy parasite burden (faecal egg count (FEC) 1300–2500 eggs per gram faeces (epg)). They were either drenched to remove all the parasites or remained undrenched when allocated to pure swards of either sulla or lucerne for the 28-day experimental period. Liveweight gains of drenched lambs were higher with sulla (mean 302 g/day) than with lucerne (mean 245 g/day; P < 0·02) and rates of gain were not reduced (P = 0·10) by genetic resistance to nematodes. Undrenched lambs had mean faecal egg counts of 1090–2220 epg after 28 days, with higher counts in lambs grazing lucerne than in those grazing sulla (P < 0·05). Lambs grazing lucerne also had a much lower average daily gain (ADG) (mean 50 g/day) than those grazing sulla (mean 206 g/day; P < 0·0001). Resistant lambs had reduced (P = 0·07) ADG in the sulla treatment only.

In Expt 2, lambs with a relatively low worm burden (average FEC 250 epg) were either drenched to remove all worms or dosed with 20 000 Trichostrongylus colubriformis infective larvae and grazed on pure sulla or lucerne swards for 42 days. Drenched lambs had a similar liveweight gain (mean 190 g/day) and wool growth when grazing either sulla or lucerne. Undrenched lambs grazing sulla had a greater ADG (mean 129 g/day) than those grazing lucerne (mean −39 g/day; P < 0·0001) and a higher rate of wool growth from mid-side patches (P < 0·009) and larger wool fibre diameter (P < 0·05) than those grazing lucerne. Undrenched lambs grazing sulla had lower FECs (P < 0·05) on days 14, 21, 35 and 42 than those grazing lucerne and lower (P < 0·05) Trichostrongylus colubriformis worm burdens at slaughter. Undrenched lambs had less perineal faecal contamination when grazing sulla rather than lucerne. Parasite-induced anorexia was evident in the lambs grazing lucerne but not in those grazing sulla.

These findings demonstrate that the performance of lambs infected with nematode parasites can vary substantially when given feeds of a similar chemical composition. The superior performance of lambs grazing sulla was probably caused by condensed tannins, which decrease protein degradation in the rumen and can increase post-ruminal protein availability.

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References
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The Journal of Agricultural Science
  • ISSN: 0021-8596
  • EISSN: 1469-5146
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