Gastrointestinal nematode parasites and the stability and productivity of intensive ruminant grazing systems.

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This paper uses mathematical models, describing the transmission dynamics of directly transmitted gastrointestinal nematode parasites of sheep and cattle, to examine the impact of these parasites on the stability and productivity of ruminant grazing systems. Current models of the ecology of grass growth under grazing, and the epidemiology of trichostrongylid nematode parasites of ruminants, are combined in a formulation that captures the general features of the plant - (ruminant) herbivore - parasite interaction. The simplest case, in which herbivore numbers are constant and not food limited (the norm for many agricultural systems) is considered in detail. The effect of gastrointestinal parasitism in reducing herbivore feeding rates is shown to act as a potential density-dependent constraint on the parasite's infection rate. The process is manifested in the model as a progressive linearization of the relation between herbivore feeding rate and plant density at the parasite equilibrium. This effect acts to stabilize the dynamics of the model grazing system and significantly affects its predictions about the impact of parasite control and the pattern of host productivity. Model predictions are discussed in the light of relevant field observations, and areas for future research are identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)541-563
Number of pages23
JournalPhilosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
Issue number1207
StatePublished - Oct 31 1988
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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