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Associations between Theileria orientalis Ikeda type infection and the growth rates and haematocrit of suckled beef calves in the North Island of New Zealand

Authors: Pomroy WE, Hickson RE, Lawrence KE, Fermin LM, Gedye KR, Lawrence BL, Hewitt CA
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 66-73, Mar 2019
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Article class: Review Article

AIMS: The principle aim of this study was to examine the association between infection with Theileria orientalis Ikeda type and growth rates of suckled beef calves on four beef farms. In addition, associations between calf sex, sampling time, and individual farm and T. orientalis Ikeda type infection intensity and haematocrit (HCT) were investigated.

METHODS: The study was a prospective longitudinal study in which 240 calves from four purposively selected beef farms in the North Island of New Zealand were blood sampled and weighed in late spring, mid-summer and early autumn. Two farms were from high-risk (A and B) and two from low-risk (C and D) tick areas. Blood samples were analysed to determine HCT, and the number of T. orientalis Ikeda type organisms/µL of blood (infection intensity) using a quantitative PCR assay. A calf was defined as infected if >415 organisms/µL were detected in a blood sample. Linear mixed models were used to examine associations between infection intensity, mean daily liveweight gain (MDG), HCT, calf sex and time of sampling on the four farms.

RESULTS: On Farms A and B nearly all calves were infected at each sampling time, on Farm C <30% were infected at any sampling and on Farm D infection prevalence increased from 32 to 79% between late spring and early autumn. On Farms C and D, from mid-summer to early autumn, mean MDG was 0.127 (95% CI=0.072–0.183) kg/day less for infected than uninfected calves (p<0.001). On all farms MDG was negatively associated with infection intensity for mid-summer and early autumn sampling times (p=0.037). The relationship between time of sampling and infection intensity varied between farms (p<0.001), and between male and female calves (p=0.018). Females had a higher infection intensity than males at the mid-summer and early autumn samplings. The association between HCT and infection intensity varied with sampling time and farm (p=0.018). There was a strong negative association between infection intensity and HCT at the late spring sampling, but in mid-summer there was no association, and in early autumn only a weak association.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This study has shown that beef farmers in the North Island of New Zealand should be concerned about the welfare effects and economic impacts of T. orientalis Ikeda type infection in suckled beef calves.

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