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Short- and long-term association between individual levels of milk antibody against Ostertagia ostertagi and first-lactation heifer’s production performances

Bellet, C.; Green, M.J.; Bradley, A.J.; Kaler, J.


C. Bellet

Professor of Cattle Health & Epidemiology

Professor of Dairy Herd Health and Production

Professor of Epidemiology & Precision Livestock Informatics


It is agreed that exposure of adult dairy cattle to helminths on pasture can negatively affect production performances as milking herd. Young animals, especially replacement heifers, represent the future of a dairy farm and are among the most vulnerable to helminth infections in a dairy herd. For this reason, dairy farmers tend to frequently treat heifers against helminths, although the impact of helminths on heifers’ production performances is still poorly understood. Using different epidemiological and serological tools, this study examines the relationship between heifer exposure to helminths on pasture and production performances over time. During a one-year period, 1,454 individual milk samples were collected from first-lactation heifers in England and tested for Ostertagia ostertagi (O. ostertagi) antibodies. After controlling for other confounders, increasing milk antibody levels against O. ostertagi were significantly associated with decreased milk yield at sampling but not at day 305 of heifer lactation. We did not observe any relationship between milk antibody levels against O. ostertagi in heifers and yields in fat and protein. However, heifers with a high level of milk antibodies against O. ostertagi were more likely to produce dead calf at first calving and present a delay in second calving. Moreover, these heifers had significantly higher levels of milk antibodies against Mycobacterium paratuberculosis (M. paratuberculosis) during their first lactation and were more likely to die before the end of the study. We argue that epidemiological approaches can be useful but must be complemented by other methodologies to better understand the impact of helminth infections in dairy heifers. In order to address the complex dynamics of helminth infections in dairy cattle production we require more comprehensive approaches that include triangulation between data sources and interdisciplinary studies.


Bellet, C., Green, M., Bradley, A., & Kaler, J. (2018). Short- and long-term association between individual levels of milk antibody against Ostertagia ostertagi and first-lactation heifer’s production performances. Veterinary Parasitology, 256, 1-8.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 14, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 18, 2018
Publication Date May 30, 2018
Deposit Date Aug 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 19, 2019
Journal Veterinary Parasitology
Print ISSN 0304-4017
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 256
Pages 1-8
Keywords General Veterinary; Parasitology
Public URL
Publisher URL


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