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The complicated story of fluke - Part 2


Work in Animal Health Ireland has shown that fluke could be costing €70 per finished steer in lost performance if not treated correctly. Martina Harrington, Teagasc Beef Specialist in the second of a two part series discusses liver fluke. Martina explains the treatment of fluke and ensuring it works

Treatment of Fluke

Triclabendazoles control fluke from 2 weeks after they are ingested by the animal, so these are early immature fluke right up to the adults. If we use a triclabendazole 3 weeks after housing we will kill all the fluke in the animal, assuming you don’t have resistant fluke on your farm.

Closantel and Nitroxynil will kill any fluke that are over 7-8 weeks of age, depending on the product. So younger fluke will survive and be able to grow and mature all the while damaging the animals liver. Therefore, if I use Closamectin after my animals are housed for two weeks, I will have to re-treat in 5 weeks’ time when the early immature fluke reach 7 weeks of age to kill them.

The Albendazoles, Clorsulon, Rafoxnide and Oxyclozanide, will only kill the mature fluke, these are the fluke that have left the liver and reached the bile duct. These adult fluke were eaten by the animal 10-12 weeks ago. So products with these active ingredients will not kill the fluke that are burrowing around in the liver.

As the liver is the power house of weight gain in cattle when it is damaged or not functioning properly you can severely reduce animal performance. This is particularly important for famers who are feeding high quantities of meal. So you need to get it right.

You often hear of farmers housing animals and not treating animals until Christmas so they can use a flukicide that only kills adults. Are they taking into account the damage being done in the meantime? Are they taking into account potential loss in performance? This strategy may be okay on dry farms with very light fluke infections but would be very questionable on farms with heavy infections.

You also hear of people using a closantel based flukicide at housing as they think it kills all the immature fluke, now we know it doesn’t, it kills anything eaten over 7/8 weeks ago. So you need to sit down and work out a programme that suits your farm, taking into account the expected level of infection on your farm and the DAFM forecast. Use your Teagasc advisor!

How do you know if your dosing programme is working?

There are reports of resistance to Triclabendazoles but we are unsure of how wide spread it is. If using products with this active ingredient you need to ensure it is working. 

AHI Beef Health Check A significant number of the meat processers have signed up to the Beef Health Check. This is a process whereby a vet looks at the liver and lungs of your animals on the factory line and categorises them as listed below. If you are sending your animals to a participating factory you get this Beef Health Check report or you can look it up on ICBF by looking under services and AHI Animal Health, then click on the Beef Health Check. This report will tell you if the cattle had

  • Normal Liver
  • Liver damaged by fluke but no live fluke detected
  • Liver damaged by fluke and live fluke present
  • Liver other damage
  • Liver Abscess

The AHI website has leaflets on how to interpret the report along with further information on the control of fluke. You can view these  here 

Ask the vet in the factory/abattoir to check the livers for you.

Take faecal samples and submit to laboratory for egg testing. This test will not detect early immature or immature fluke. Only adults that have reached the bile duct lay eggs. Also adult fluke intermittently lay eggs so you need to ensure to take samples from at least 10 different animals and from different spot in the dung pat. Use this information along with the history of the farm when interpreting your results.

Dr. Orla Keane, researcher in Animal health with Teagasc has recorded this very informative short video, in association with AHI, on the interpretation of faecal egg sample results which you may find useful.

Check any sheep livers. During the year if you want to keep an eye on the fluke status on the farm, as lambs are killed throughout the year, have their livers checked to see if they have fluke. If they have you can assume your cattle will have fluke also if they are grazing the same pastures for the same length of time.

Fluke has a complicated story, but if you think about it and discuss with your vet or advisor, you can be successful in treating it correctly and ensuring top performance in your animals this winter.

The Beef Edge podcast

Listen in to The Beef Edge podcast on When do I need to treat for Liver Fluke? 

If you missed Part 1 of this article series on Teagasc Daily which covers the explains the stages of fluke in the animal, you can check it out here

You may also be interested in this link Current News (agriculture.gov.ie) to the DAFM website which contains a fluke update on forecasting.


The Teagasc Beef Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to Suckler and Beef farmers every Wednesday here on Teagasc Daily.  Find more on Teagasc Beef here  Teagasc provides a Local Advisory and Education service to farmers. Find your local Teagasc office here