The reindeer abomasal nematode (Ostertagia gruehneri) is naturally transmitted to sheep when sharing pastures
A three-year survey (1997-99) was carried out on organically reared sheep flocks throughout Sweden. The aim was to determine the prevalence and intensity of nematode infections and to establish relationships between sheep management practices and parasite infections. Faecal samples from ewes and lambs were collected from 152 organic flocks around lambing-time and during the grazing-period for analysis. Results were compared with the different management practices that farmers use to prevent parasitism in their flocks. A high proportion of the flocks was infected with nematodes. The most prevalent species were Haemonchus contortus, Teladorsagia circumeincta, Trichostrongylus axei. T. colubriformis and Chabertia ovina and infections progressively increased during summer in lambs grazing on permanent pastures. Severity of parasitic infection in lambs was highly dependent on egg output from the ewes. H. contortus was found in 37% of the flocks, even at latitudes approximating the Polar Circle. Nematodirus battus was recorded for the first time in Sweden during the course of this study. Lambs turned out onto permanent pasture showed higher nematode faecal egg counts (epg) than lambs that had grazed on pastures, which had not carried sheep the previous year. This beneficial effect of lambs grazing non-infected pastures persisted if the ewes were treated with an anthelmintic before turn-out and if the lambs were kept on pastures of low infectivity after weaning. In lambs, the prevalence and the magnitude of their egg counts were higher during autumn in flocks where lambs were slaughtered after 8 months of age, compared with flocks where all lambs were slaughtered before this age. These results will be used in providing advice to farmers of ways to modify their flock management in order to minimise the use of anthelmintics, but at the same time efficiently produce prime lambs.