Know the Facts – Liver Fluke

Liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica, is a highly pathogenic parasite which causes severe liver damage, especially in sheep, and can result in the sudden death of previously healthy animals. Millions of pounds are lost every year by livestock producers due to liver fluke with the cost of disease per affected animal noted as £6 per lamb and £90 per calf.1

Fluke lifecycle

All three stages of liver fluke damage the liver and can cause clinical disease and production losses. The lifecycle of the fluke has a portion outside of the animal and involves a mud snail which thrives in wetter areas.

It is therefore unsurprising after the prolonged above average weather experienced this summer that current guidance from the NADIS August parasite forecast predicts moderate risk in the north and west of Scotland, and low risk in all other regions. However, this doesn’t mean that there will be no, or limited, fluke across the country in autumn, so it is important to still remain vigilant.

Consider local factors

Control programmes should always take into account the farm history, topography, geographical location and the prevailing weather.

Even in years where disease challenge may be lower than normal, vigilance is still important, and special consideration should be placed on fixing any leaky water troughs, fencing off wet or boggy areas in fields and maintaining effective drainage to reduce snail habitats.

Sustainable liver fluke control
The four elements of sustainable liver fluke control are:

1. Pasture protection – to prevent liver fluke eggs reaching the pasture when snails are active
2. Pasture management – to reduce snail habitats and therefore reduce snail numbers
3. Grazing management – to avoid grazing high risk pastures with susceptible animals at high risk times of year
4. Strategic treatments for at risk animals – controlling the right stage of liver fluke, at the right time, using the right product.

 

For more information talk to our animal health specialists in store or check the NADIS fluke forecasts here.

1. EBLEX 2013, Economic Impact of Health and Welfare Issues in Beef Cattle and Sheep in England