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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Subclinical nematode parasitism affects activity and rumination patterns in first-season grazing cattle

Hogberg, Niclas; Hessle, Anna; Lidfors, Lena; Baltrusis, Paulius; Claerebout, Edwin; Hoglund, Johan


Sickness behaviour has been suggested as an applicable indicator for monitoring disease. Deviating feeding behaviour and activity can provide information about animals' health and welfare status. Recent advances in sensor technology enable monitoring of such behaviours and could potentially be utilized as an indicator of gastrointestinal nematode (GIN) infections. This study investigated activity and rumination patterns in first-season grazing steers exposed to subclinical infection levels of the GIN Ostertagia ostertagi and Cooperia oncophora. At turnout, animals were allocated to one of four experimental groups and were faced with "high" (H1, n = 15; H2, n = 17) or "low" (L1, n = 17; L2, n = 11) levels of parasite exposure by grazing in similar enclosures contaminated with overwintering third stage (13) GIN larvae. Animals in H1 and H2 (HP) received a 1:1 mix of approximately 10,000 0. ostertagi and C. oncophora L3 at turnout; whereas the animals in Ll and L2 (LP) were treated monthly with ivermectin. Activity and rumination patterns were monitored by fitting animals with leg- (IceQube) and neck-mounted (Heatime) sensors. BW was recorded every fortnight, whereas faecal and blood samples were examined every four weeks for nematode faecal egg count and serum pepsinogen concentrations (SPCs). There was an interaction effect of exposure level and period (P < 0.0001) on average lying daily time across the entire grazing time. A higher mean daily lying time (P = 0.0037) was found in HP compared with LP during the first 40 days on pasture. There was also interaction effects of treatment and day since turnout on rumination time (P < 0.0001) and rumination change (P = 0.0008). Also mean daily steps (P < 0.0001) and mean daily motion index (P < 0.0001) were markedly higher in HP during days 62-69, coinciding with peaking SPC in HP. Strongyle eggs were observed both in HP and LP from 31 days after turnout. Eggs per gram (EPG) differed between parasite exposure levels (P < 0.0001), with mean EPG remaining low in LP throughout the experiment. Similarly, an increase in SPC was observed (P < 0.0001), but only in HP where it peaked at day 56. In contrast, no difference in BW gain (BWG) (P = 0.78) between HP and LP was observed. In conclusion, this study shows that behavioural measurements monitored with sensors were affected even at low infection levels not affecting BWG. These combined results demonstrate the potential of automated behavioural recordings as a tool for detection of subclinical parasitism. (C) 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. on behalf of The Animal Consortium.


Accelerometer; Behaviour; Gastrointestinal nematodes; Health monitoring; Sensor

Published in

2021, Volume: 15, number: 6, article number: 100237Publisher: ELSEVIER