Predictive models of parasite life cycles increase our understanding of how parasite epidemiology is influenced by global changes and can be used to support decisions for more targeted worm control. Estimates of parasite population dynamics are needed to parameterize such models. The aim of this study was to quantify the main life history traits of Ostertagia ostertagi, economically the most important nematode of cattle in temperate regions. The main parameters determining parasite density during the parasitic phase of O. ostertagi are (i) the larval establishment rate, (ii) hypobiosis rate, (iii) adult mortality and (iv) female fecundity (number of eggs laid per day per female). A systematic review was performed covering studies from 1962 to 2007, in which helminth-naïve calves were artificially infected with O. ostertagi. The database was further extended with results of unpublished trials conducted at the Laboratory for Parasitology of Ghent University, Belgium. Overall inverse variance weighted estimates were computed for each of the traits through random effects models. An average establishment rate (±S.E.) of 0.269±0.022 was calculated based on data of 27 studies (46 experiments). The establishment rate declined when infection dose increased and was lower in younger animals. An average proportion of larvae entering hypobiosis (±S.E.) of 0.041 (±0.009) was calculated based on 27 studies (54 experiments). The proportion of ingested larvae that went into hypobiosis was higher in animals that received concomitant infections with nematode species other than O. ostertagi (mixed infections). An average daily adult mortality (±S.E.) of 0.028 (±0.002) was computed based on data from 28 studies (70 experiments). Adult mortality was positively correlated with infection dose. A daily fecundity (±S.E.) of 284 (±45) eggs per female was found based on nine studies (10 experiments). The average female sex ratio of O. ostertagi based on individual animal data (n=75) from six different studies was estimated to be 0.55. We believe that this systematic review is the first to summarise the available data on the main life history traits of the parasitic phase of O. ostertagi. In conclusion, this meta-analysis provides novel estimates for the parameterization of life cycle-based transmission models, explicitly reports measures of variance around these estimates, gives evidence for density dependence of larval establishment and adult mortality, shows that host age affects larval establishment and, to our knowledge, provides the first evidence for O. ostertagi of a female-biased sex ratio.