Lambs show considerable genetic variation in faecal egg count following natural, predominantly Ostertagia circumcinta infection. This genetic variation is acquired and not innate. Worm length is positively associated with worm fecundity. The genetic variation in faecal egg count is a consequence of genetic variation in worm length and hence worm fecundity, and not of genetic variation in worm burdens. In contrast to lambs, mature sheep may be able to regulate both fecundity and worm numbers. In lambs, three factors account for the majority of the variation in worm length: the strength of the local IgA response against fourth-stage larvae, the specificity of this response against four molecules in particular, and the density-dependent influence of worm number.