Domestication of ruminant livestock and the impact of nematode parasites:possible implications for the reindeer industry
AbstractIn a balanced ecological system, both host and nematode parasite populations are firmly controlled by a complex array of interacting factors. However domestication of livestock has tipped the balance in favour of the parasites. This is due to increasing the proportion of susceptible animals in the herd or flock (lactating females and weaned young animals), increasing stocking rate, increasing productivity demands and decreasing the movement of the animals. In contrast with microbial infections, where multiplication takes place entirely within the host, metazoan parasites have both a parasitic phase and a free-living phase. Every worm present has been separately acquired by the ingestion of free-living stages on pasture. Immunity to nematodes develops slowly, it is labile, and its maintenance is dependent upon a good nutritional state of the animal. Consequently, worm parasites are ubiquitous wherever livestock are kept and they impose a constant and often a high infectious pressure on grazing animals. Nematode infections in grazing livestock are almost always a mixture of species. All have deleterious effects and collectively lead to chronic ill thrift. Economic evaluations repeatedly show that the major losses due to parasites are on animal production, rather than on mortality. This paper focuses on the problems of nematode parasites; problems associated with drug use (anthelmintic resistance, environmental impact) and costs of nematode infections for the common ruminant livestock industries (cattle, sheep, goats), with possible analogies for the semi-domesticated reindeer industry.
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