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The number of suckler cow beef herds is increasing in Finland. Prevalence studies about gastrointestinal parasites and lungworms of grazing beef cattle in southern Finland are not available. Systematic anthelmintic treatment is not widely used and there is no recommended treatment protocol available. The aim of this study was to obtain basic knowledge of the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites and lungworms in grazing suckler cow beef herds in southern Finland.
The study was conducted in summer 2002. It included 13 voluntary beef cattle herds (herd size 26 – 95 adult animals) in southern Finland. None of the herds had clinical symptoms of parasitic infection. None of the herds was treated in the spring and 11 of the herds had not used anthelmintic treatments within a year. The first set of faecal samples were taken from 4-10 calves on 10 farms, 4-10 heifers on 7 farms and 8-12 cows on 13 farms. The first sampling was done more than 3 weeks after the beginning of the grazing period and the second sampling was done at the end of the grazing period in autumn. Faecal samples were investigated at Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, Oulu. The methods used were modified McMaster for gastrointestinal helminth eggs and the Baermann technique for detecting Dictyocaulus viviparus. Egg count less than 50 eggs/gram faeces (epg) was considered low infection, 50-500 epg moderate infection and more than 500 epg heavy infection considering Trichostrongylidae spp. Dictyocaulus viviparus infections were evaluated on herd level as negative or positive.
Trichostrongylidae spp were found in all herds in all groups examined. The egg counts in individual calves varied from 0 to 1540 epg at the first and from 0 to 780 epg at the second sampling. Egg counts in heifers varied between 0 - 120 epg and 0 - 140 epg, in older cows between 0 - 360 epg and 0 - 200 epg, respectively. Only three individual samples had egg count higher than 500 epg. Median values for calves, heifers and cows are presented in Table Table11.
Dictyocaulus viviparus was detected in two herds. Other than trichostrongylid gastrointestinal parasites (Capillaria sp., Nematodirus sp., Moniezia sp., Paramphistomum sp.) were detected in very few samples at low levels.
Gastrointestinal parasites, mainly Trichostrongylidae spp., were found widely in beef cattle, but the parasite egg counts were low or moderate at all farms in all groups of animals. None of the herds had clinical signs of infection and did not seem to need regular anthelmintic treatment. However, summer 2002 was exceptionally dry and warm in southern Finland which may be one reason for low egg counts. Other gastrointestinal parasites (Capillaria sp., Nematodirus sp., Moniezia sp., Paramphistomum sp.) were rare and considered not important.
The most important finding of this study was some farms having a subclinical Dictyocaulus viviparus infection. In light of the low incidence of disease in Finland, subclinical infections are a risk in cattle trade and should be considered.