Patent infections with Fasciola hepatica and paramphistomes (Calicophoron daubneyi) in dairy cows and association of fasciolosis with individual milk production and fertility parameters
Infections with the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica may result in considerable economic losses in the dairy livestock industry worldwide. Infections have been associated with detrimental impacts on milk production and milk quality as well as reduced fertility. However, most related data rely on examinations on herd level and the rather few studies on individual cow level are based solely on antibodies as measure for F. hepatica infections. This entails the risk of including false-positives as anti-F. hepatica antibodies persist for months even if the infection is cleared. Therefore, the presented study aimed to overcome this issue by assessing the association between F. hepatica infections measured via faecal egg counts (FEC) and milk production as well as fertility parameters in individual dairy cows. In total, 2006 faecal samples from 1166 Black and White dairy cows from 17 small and medium-sized German grassland farms were examined in July and September 2015. The relationship between patent F. hepatica infections and the milk production parameters milk yield, milk protein content, milk fat content and somatic cell score (SCS) was assessed in a linear mixed model using test-day records of individual cows. Patent F. hepatica infections were found on 35.3% (7/17) of farms with an individual cow prevalence of 10.1% (97/963) in July and 9.1% (95/1036) in September. Patent rumen fluke infections were detected on 17.6% (3/17) farms with an individual cow prevalence of 0.4% (4/963) in July and 0.7% (9/1036) in September. No significant association was found between F. hepatica infection status and either SCS as an indicator of udder health or milk production parameters, despite 0.06 and 0.10% lower values for milk protein and fat content in patently infected cows. Linear mixed models and generalized linear mixed models were established to estimate the impact of fasciolosis on the fertility parameters calving to first service (CTFS), calving interval (CI), success in first insemination (SFI) and 56-day nonreturn rate (NRR56). A significantly higher average CTFS of 4.69 days was detected in F. hepatica infected cows (P = 0.025), but no significant relationship was found for the other fertility parameters.