The recognition of antigens from fourth-stage Ostertagia circumcincta by plasma IgA was studied in a group of 30, ten-month-old Scottish Blackface sheep which had been naturally, then deliberately infected. Western blotting revealed 49 bands that were recognized by antibody from one or more of the 30 sheep. There was a heterogeneous pattern of antigen recognition amongst the sheep. No individual recognized all the 49 bands and only one of the 49 bands was recognized by all sheep. Two antigens with approximate molecular weights 87,000 Da and 129,000 Da were significantly associated with a reduction in mean adult worm lengths. The observed variation in recognition of these two antigens on fourth-stage larval preparations accounted, in a statistical sense, for nearly 40% of the total variation in worm length. In addition to the variation in antibody mediated recognition of these two parasite molecules, three other components have been implicated in regulating worm length. They are a 37,000 Da band from adult worms, the amount of fourth-stage larval specific IgA in the abomasal mucosa and the density-dependent influence of adult worm burden. Together, these components and their interactions accounted for over 90% of the observed variation in worm length. These results indicate that the parasite-specific IgA response, or something extremely closely associated with it, is the major immunological mechanism controlling worm length.