Influence of sex on the resistance of sheep lambs to an experimental Haemonchus contortus infection
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36 intact male and 69 female lambs of two breeds (n = 63 Merinoland; n = 42 Rhön) aged 12 weeks were orally infected with 5000 infective-stage larvae, L3, of the nematode Haemonchus contortus. After 4 and 8 weeks faecal egg counts (FEC), haematocrit values and plasma testosterone levels were determined. All lambs were slaughtered at 20 weeks of age. The gastrointestinal tracts were examined for the presence of adult stages of H. contortus. Male lambs showed significantly higher log FEC (p < 0.001), higher mean establishment rates (p < 0.05), higher worm burdens (p < 0.01) and lower haematocrit values (p < 0.001) when compared with female lambs. Correlations between economically important traits (body weight, daily weight gain) and parasitological parameters were significantly higher in male animals. Testosterone level was 4 weeks after infection significantly positive correlated with worm burden. The results suggest that female lambs are more resistant against an experimental H. contortus infection when compared with male lambs. Testosterone seems to play an important role in resistance. This approach can be of importance if parasite resistance is incorporated into breeding programs and the estimated breeding values for rams are only based on male offspring information. Therefore male breeding values are probably not representative for the whole population.