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Liver Fluke - The Big Questions Answered

17 October 2017
Type Media Article

By Anthony O'Connor, Teagasc Adviser, Galway/Clare Regional Unit

The downpours of the last few months have caused the scourge of Liver Fluke to come to the fore. In this article Teagasc Advisers answer some frequently asked questions on Liver Fluke.  

Q. Why is Liver Fluke such a problem after weeks of wet weather?

A. The increase in Liver Fluke disease after weeks of downpours is due mainly to an increase in numbers of the Common Mud Snail, the intermediate host in the life cycle of the Liver Fluke, this in turn has resulted in more stock picking up Fluke infection from grass.

Q. At this time of year, what livestock will benefit most from a Fluke dose?

A. Animals that will benefit most are breeding ewes and pregnant cows, also weanlings and replacement stock will benefit.



Q. Should I treat all stock for Fluke?

A. Yes, if there is a history of Fluke infection on your farm. It may be necessary to treat again at housing in 6 to 8 weeks' time depending on the veterinary product used.

Q. Do cattle need to be dosed at housing and when?

A. Stock would need to be treated against all stages of Fluke within 14 days of being housed.

Q. What's the best veterinary product to use for cattle to control Fluke?

A. The best thing to do here is to get a recommendation from your Vet for a product that is appropriate to your herd which will control early immature, immature and adult fluke.

Q. What about using combination products that control worms and parasites?

A. Caution is urged here. Some of the combination products do not control early immature fluke. Read veterinary product label carefully before using.

Q. Beside damage to livers, what other problems are due to Liver Fluke infection?

A. Depending on the level of infection, Liver Fluke may cause;

  • Lack of thrive, poor appetite
  • A reduced weight gain of up to 20% in cattle and up to 30% in sheep, a reduction in milk production (up to 8% in both suckler and dairy cows)
  • Fertility status can suffer in breeding stock
  • Up to 50% of infected livers can be condemned at meat plants
  • Severe infection may cause death due to anaemia, especially in young lambs.
  • Sudden death by triggering certain Clostridia diseases.

Q. How can I be certain that there is Fluke in my stock?

A. Faecal sampling, along with examination of beef health check reports from meat plants for slaughtered animals will tell you if Fluke is present or not.

Q. How will I know if a Veterinary treatment has worked?

A. Faecal samples, taken approximately 8 weeks post the housing treatment will give some indication of the effectiveness of the flukicide used. Also, check the beef health reports for any cattle slaughtered. These reports will tell you if there is live fluke present and would give a good indication if your current dosing programme is working.   

Q. I buy in store cattle every backend, what's the best option for controlling Fluke?

A. All bought in stock should be treated for all stages of fluke and kept separate from the rest of the stock for at least 4 weeks.

Q. Do I need to take any precautions before using a flukicide?

A. Before you start dosing for fluke, check the product label to see what fluke stages it kills and the flukicide withdrawal period. Most of the fluke only injections/drenches which have a wider spectrum of activity against the different fluke stages have at least a fifty day withdrawal period for meat/offal in cattle and 18 days plus in sheep.

Q. Is there any problem treating milking cows with a flukicide?

A. Only treat dairy cows when they are dried off, paying particular attention to the restricted number of products available in dairy animals and the withdrawal period for milk supply.