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The Certainty of Fluke?

28 November 2018
Type Media Article

By Seán Doorley, Beef & Sheep Adviser, Longford Town

Benjamin Franklin once wrote ‘But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes’. Beef farmers can safely believe the certainty of having Liver Fluke in their stock come this time of the year.  Every year, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in collaboration with Met Éireann advises farmers of the predicted risk of disease caused by liver fluke infection in livestock. Last week they issued their forecast as follows ‘Due to the dry weather conditions experienced in many parts of the country this summer, there is a moderate risk of liver fluke-related disease this winter for the north, west, south-west and midlands, with a lower disease risk expected for the east and parts of the south. However, farmers in these lower risk areas should still remain vigilant for signs of disease.’  This forecast is based on meteorological data gathered between May and October by Met Éireann. In the November 2018 edition of the Teagasc Beef Newsletter, Pearse Kelly, Head Of Drystock outlined how you might effectively control liver fluke and to be certain the product you use has worked. There are a huge number of products effective at killing them, farmers are aware of the parasites for decades and most treat their cattle at housing for them. However, every year we still see a high percentage of livers in meat processing factories from housed cattle that have live adult liver fluke in them. Why is this? There are a number of possible reasons, including: using a control product that only kills a proportion of the fluke in the animal; underestimating the weight of the animal and not giving enough product; incorrect treatment procedure; and,  using a product that the fluke are resistant to. When purchasing a product to kill liver fluke, the most important question to ask is: “When should I use this product so that it is most effective”? Most of the flukicides that are for sale only control older immature liver flukes and/or adult fluke. This means that any fluke that have been picked up over the previous six to eight weeks or so will not be killed. A second treatment for fluke will then be necessary. Triclabendazole-based products will kill much younger fluke, but Animal Health Ireland reports that resistance to them appears quite widespread in Ireland. To be sure that a fluke control programme has actually worked, it is a good idea to send off dung samples for testing eight weeks after you have given the last treatment. Only then will you know for certain whether or not it has been effective. To quote Franklin once again “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” Now is the time to implement a dosing plan, in partnership with your vet to effectively control fluke in your herd. Choose your product carefully, administer it correctly and check dung samples to know for certain if job is done.