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Be Prepared for Liver Fluke in Cattle.

 liver fluke in cattle


Combatting Liver Fluke Disease in Cattle



How to Diagnose and Treat Liver Fluke in Cattle.


Changing climates and higher rainfall are seeing a wider spread of parasitic pests such as liver fluke. Once they were rare in the south west and confined to the wetter western and north west areas of the UK, but it’s spreading and accounted for 16 per cent of all diagnosable conditions for cattle in 2014.


Cattle are far less susceptible to acute liver fluke disease outbreaks and deaths, generally presenting with bottle jaw oedema, diarrhoea and weight loss in chronic cases. However, the major costs to the industry remain hidden, through decreased weight gains, milk yields, immune function and fertility. Unlike the roundworm, co-grazing or pasture rotation with sheep will not aid fluke management and in these cases, winter cattle treatments should be given in line with the sheep.



For dairy herds, bulk milk antibody is a useful screen of herd exposure, but cannot differentiate active from historical infection. Faecal counts or ELISA taken (as for sheep) 8-12 weeks post housing will confirm if infection is active on the farm.



With reduced susceptibility to acute disease, beef cattle treatment can often be delayed until after autumn housing. The housing date determines which fluke stages are present and which drug to use. In high risk areas Triclabendazole may be required 2 weeks post housing to treat early immature stages, whereas in lower risk areas, it may be possible to wait 8-10 weeks post housing and use a targeted adulticide e.g. Nitroxynil. Treatment of any out-wintered cattle will need to be repeated at a frequency relative to the risk from the pasture. 


Treatment of lactating dairy cattle is now limited to a handful of products at dry off. For cattle drying off August – 8 weeks post housing from high risk pastures Fasinex 240 (48 day milk withdrawal) would be the product of choice. For cattle drying off after this alternative adulticides may be used e.g. clorsulon (Molemec Super - 60 day) or oxyclozanide (Zanil - 72 hours).   


Grazing and treatment strategies should address pasture risk and individual animal susceptibility.


Future challenges, preventing spread and quarantine.


With fluke continuing to spread to new areas, all farm health plans should discuss control. Farms that do not currently have fluke should be actively monitoring to ensure they do not get caught out. 


For dairy farms, regular bulk milk tests provide a simple and cheap method of monitoring parasite freedom. For beef and sheep farms faecal ELISA or egg count is required over the winter months. Regardless of current status it is crucial, if buying in, that a quarantine plan is in place to prevent entry of the parasite. For farms with endemic fluke, this quarantine plan is just as important to prevent entry of triclabendazole resistant fluke. 


Consider fencing off open water and provide alternative water source.


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 Newsletter 605

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