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© 2017 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved. Selection for low fecal egg counts (FEC) can be used to genetically enhance resistance to gastrointestinal nematode parasites in growing lambs, thereby reducing the frequency of use of anthelmintics, facilitating marketing of organic lamb, and reducing the risk of development of anthelmintic resistance by the parasite. Recording of FEC in lambs has, therefore, been incorporated into several national sheep genetic evaluation programs. Ewes in late gestation and early lactation are also vulnerable to parasite infection and commonly experience a periparturient rise in FEC. This study was designed to assess factors associated with the periparturient rise in FEC in Katahdin ewes and associated changes in FEC in their lambs. Data came from 1,487 lambings by 931 Katahdin ewes from 11 farms in the Eastern United States. Fecal egg counts were measured in ewes at approximately 0, 30, and 60 d postpartum and in their lambs at approximately 60, 90, and 120 d of age. Approximately 1,400 lambs were evaluated at each measurement age. Data were analyzed separately for ewes and lambs and also initially analyzed separately for each measurement time. Repeated-measures analyses were then used to evaluate responses across measurement times. In ewes, FEC peaked at approximately 28 d postpartum, and we concluded that informative periparturient FEC could be obtained from 1 wk before until approximately 5 wk after lambing. Yearling ewes had higher FEC than adult ewes (P < 0.01), and ewes that nursed twin or triplet lambs had higher FEC than ewes that nursed single lambs (P < 0.01). In lambs, FEC increased through approximately 120 d of age. Lambs from yearling ewes and lambs nursed in larger litters were, like their dams, at greater risk of parasitism (P < 0.05). Ewes and lambs in these groups would benefit from enhanced monitoring of parasite loads at lambing and in early lactation. Correlations (r) between FEC in lambs at 90 d of age and FEC in ewes at 0, 30, and 60 d postpartum of 0.05 to 0.09 (P ≤ 0.05) support the presence of a genetic relationship between these 2 indicators of parasite resistance.

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Journal of Animal Science

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