Gastrointestinal parasites compromise the welfare and health of ruminants on pasture, causing serious productive losses. The constant and preventive strategy of anthelmintic treatments results in several problems, such as parasite resistance and food and environment contamination. Sustainable approaches to tackle such problems primarily involve knowledge of the dynamics and impact of parasites in the flock. The aim of this study was to monitor the gastrointestinal parasite burden together with the body condition score (BCS) in a flock of a local Italian sheep breed. The two-year study involved an unchanged sample of 20 pluriparous ewes randomly selected in a farm located in the homonymous area. Chemical anthelmintic treatment had been administered three months before the beginning of the study, following a mean infestation level of 298±276.5 eggs per gram (EPG). Faecal samples were collected every two months to evaluate the faecal egg count (FEC) with a modified McMaster technique. Egg dynamics were statistically analysed and data were logarithmically transformed to normalize the variance. FEC results were grouped into four classes of infection for a statistical description. The BCS was measured on a five-point scale. Results showed a significant fluctuation in FEC (from 52 to 320 EPG), however no clear relationship with the season was found. Mean values were always under the threshold of health risk and only in one case did values exceed 300 EPG. The overall BCS was nearly 3, thus revealing no nutritional problems. The study highlighted that by monitoring gastrointestinal strongyles in a farm with good farming practices, chemical treatments can be limited to only those cases that are strictly necessary.
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