Beef cattle fluke survey reveals ‘alarming’ results

Beef farmers are failing to test for liver fluke, a study has shown.

Pharmaceutical company, Norbrook, carried out a survey in November 2015 among 400 beef farmers in the UK and Ireland, to get an insight into current fluke treatment practices.

It said the results were “alarming” with 68% of respondents admitting they had not recently tested for liver fluke.

See also: How to treat liver fluke in cattle at housing to prevent losses

In fact, only 17% of farmers said they had tested within four months of the survey being carried out, despite the fact that 43% of those questioned said they were more concerned about liver fluke this year compared to previous years.

Other results showed:

  • 32% monitored solely by reviewing liver condemnations from their abattoir
  • Only 29% had carried out faecal egg counts, compared to 12% that took blood samples
  • 22% said they had tested but weren’t aware how
  • The vast majority of respondents treat cattle once (42%) or twice (40%) a year for fluke, with 88% treating for fluke in the last year
  • The survey also highlighted that 76% of farmers treated their herds at the same time each year
  • 68% preferred a combination of a flukicide and a wormer and 58% used pour-on as their preferred method of treatment

Steph Small MRCVS, veterinary advisor for Norbrook, said: “It would appear there still is a need for continued education on fluke symptoms, testing mechanisms and treatment in the marketplace, with 40% of farmers saying they would appreciate a recap on the effects, treatment strategies and options.”

See also: Immature fluke still a threat

Vet Lee-Anne Oliver, from Scott Mitchell Associates, said she was not surprised that more farmers hadn’t tested animals.

“[The summer] is not really a time of year to test; most of the testing is carried out after housing when fluke have matured and then shed eggs, but I do believe more testing should be from January onwards to ascertain the risk.”

She said it was worrying that 68% of farmers used combination products, especially if farmers weren’t testing first.

“If a worming treatment and a fluke treatment is required there’s no problem using [a combination product], but if only a fluke treatment is required, only a fluke product should be used.”

Ms Oliver said the risk was “moderately high” this year and advised farmers to speak to their vets and carry out tests to help identify if treatments are required and the most effective products to use.

“There are so many variable factors such as the age of cattle, date of housing, the farm’s history and where it is in the country.”

Ms Oliver said many farmers would have treated animals 8-9 weeks post housing to kill any late immature and mature fluke, but she warned a second treatment might be needed before turnout to reduce pasture contamination with eggs from any remaining fluke.

“Farmers should consult their vet and take faeces samples to see if there’s eggs to determine if cattle require a second fluke treatment.”

She said grazing management was also key to reducing risk.

“You need to make sure you keep cattle away from boggy areas and fence off poached patches to reduce burdens rather than relying on medicinal products.”