Plane of nutrition × tick burden interaction in cattle: Effect on fecal composition

D. R. Tolleson, S. D. Prince, K. K. Banik, T. H. Welsh, G. E. Carstens, O. F. Strey, P. D. Teel, S. T. Willard, M. T. Longnecker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Effective tick management on grazing animals is facilitated by accurate noninvasive detection methods. Fecal analysis provides information about animal health and nutrition. Diet affects fecal composition; stress may do likewise. The constituents in feces that may be affected by tick burdens and in turn affect near-infrared spectra have not been reported. Our objective was to examine the interaction between plane of nutrition and tick burden on fecal composition in cattle. Angus cross steers (n = 28; 194 ± 3.0 kg) were assigned to 1 of 4 treatments (n = 7 per group) in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement: moderate (14.0 ± 1.0% CP and 60 ± 1.5% TDN) vs. low (9.0 ± 1.0% CP and 58 ± 1.5% TDN) plane of nutrition and control (no tick) vs. tick treatment [infestation of 300 pair of adult Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) per treated animal]. Fecal samples were collected at approximately 0700 h on d -7, 0, 7, 10, 14, 17, and 21 relative to tick infestation. Fecal constituents measured were DM, OM, pH, Lactobacillus spp., Escherchia coli, acetate, propionate, butyrate, isobutyrate, valerate, isovalerate, IgA, and cortisol. Experimental day affected (P < 0.05) all constituents measured. Plane of nutrition affected (P < 0.05) DM, OM, VFA, and IgA. Tick treatment numerically (P = 0.13) reduced cortisol. A multivariate stepwise selection model containing cortisol and E. coli values on d 10 and d 14 accounted for 33% of the variation in daily adult female tick feeding counts across both planes of nutrition (P < 0.07). Within the moderate plane of nutrition, a model containing only cortisol on d 10 and d 14 described 59% of the variation in the number of feeding ticks (P < 0.02). Similarly, a model including cortisol, propionate, isovalerate, and DM at d 10 and d 14 d described 95% of the variation in total feeding ticks in the low plane of nutrition. Of the constituents measured, fecal cortisol offers the best possibility of noninvasively assessing stress by way of a single assay but the presence of ticks would still need to be confirmed visually. Although several constituents measured in this study should exist in sufficient quantity to directly affect near-infrared spectra, none stood out as a clear descriptor of prior observed differences in fecal spectra between tick-treated versus non-ticktreated animals. There were, however, groups of fecal constituents related to daily adult female tick feeding numbers (as a visual estimation of tick stress).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3658-3665
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Amblyomma americanum
  • Cattle
  • Cortisol
  • Fecal composition
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Plane of nutrition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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