Tailor treatment plan to get the better of fluke

Since new rules were put in place governing 
the administration of flukicides in dairy animals, treatment has become a grey area 
for many producers. Rhian Price speaks to 
one Welsh dairy producer who has developed 
an effective alternative treatment programme

At Calcourt Farms, Montgomery, extensive expansion plans coupled with a drive to increase productivity from home-grown forage means there’s no room for complacency when it comes to fluke control.

Every animal born on the farm is reared on the farm; more than 900 head of beef bulls are finished across two units and all heifers are reared as replacements for the 1,000-cow dairy, which is run across three units.

“Everything is put to black and white, but all the Friesian bulls are reared to 15 months of age on an ad-lib barley and straw ration and are sold to ABP,” explains Fraser Jones, who farms in partnership with his father Maurice.

“Fluke can have a significant impact on growth rates and milk yields,” explains Fraser. As this would be counterproductive, a very strict protocol has been adopted when it comes to controlling fluke.

The ethos at the farm has always been prevention is better than cure and therefore the emphasis is on “blanket-covering cows” rather than taking a “fire-fighting” approach to treatment, Fraser explains.

But since new rules came into force earlier this year limiting products from being used in the dry period, Fraser has had to reconsider which products he uses on farm. He has worked closely with his vet Oli Hodgkinson, from Trefaldwyn vets, Montgomery, to develop a sustainable fluke control programme.

Mr Hodgkinson says the changes have meant treatment is a “real muddle” for dairy farmers.

“Depending on the stage of the dry period we are very limited to what we can use effectively because a lot of products can no longer be used in animals producing milk for human consumption,” he explains.


At drying off cows are treated with a product containing the active ingredient triclabendazole, which kills mature and immature fluke down to two weeks of age.

“There is only one product you can use within 48 days of calving which contains triclabendazole, because none of the other products have withdrawal periods specified,” adds Mr Hodgkinson.

But with increasing reports of resistance to triclabendazole the farm also uses other products in its armory against fluke, to prevent an over reliance on one product.

Youngstock and yearling heifers receive a four-in-one pour-on, containing the active ingredient closantel, two months after housing in September. “The product doesn’t kill fluke until they’re at least six weeks developed,” says Mr Hodgkinson, so waiting ensures ingested fluke have matured.

“It is good to try and rotate fluke treatments, also it is easy to administer because you just pour it on their back as opposed to a drench,” explains Mr Hodgkinson.

Meanwhile in-calf heifers are given a product containing the active ingredient albendazole two weeks before they calve.

“It is the only one with a short withdrawal period of 60 hours,” says Mr Hodgkinson. Once calved, milk is then allowed to go straight into the tank.

“However, this product only kills mature fluke so ideally I would like to be able to use one that kills fluke from two weeks of age, because the heifers are very vulnerable.”

At Calcourt Farms, fluke risk is exacerbated by the fact that much of the pastures grazed are at risk.

“I’m trying to expand the dairy, so ground is a limiting factor. I want a consistent ration 365 days of the year to maintain yields, so any good ground gets a crop and when cows go out to grass it is largely on poorly drained land,” says Fraser.

Therefore treatment at housing is crucial to kill fluke before they develop into chronic fluke.

Bulls that are grazed during the summer months get drenched with a product containing clorsulan three months post-housing and carcasses are followed through to the abattoir where liver feedback is carefully monitored.

Meanwhile, any suspect cows then get treated with the same product as the in-calf heifers, chosen for its lowest 60-hour withdrawal period.


Because the programme is working so well Mr Hodgkinson says they rarely see any clinical cases of fluke.

In an ideal situation he says running a spring-calving herd or housing year-round would be easiest.

“You either keep them in 365 days a year or move towards extended grazing and calve down in the spring, because then drying off occurs at housing and you can treat the whole herd. It is easy then, because everyone knows you’re treating everything at once,” he adds.

But as each farm situation varies he says it is critical farmers get advice from their vet.

“Farmers must ask their vet or they run the risk of not treating the right stage of fluke.”

As the Joneses milk a large number across three units, keeping up with treatments can also be a minefield.

As a result Fraser has taken the decision to house all dry cows and heifers at the same unit as the youngstock before the year is out.

Limits on fluckicide use in cows producing milk for human consumption

Active ingredient

Authorised for use in lactating dairy animals?

Authorised for use in the dry period?

Authorised for used in pregnant dairy heifers?




Yes, with restrictions




Yes, with restrictions

Triclabendazole (oral)


Yes, under restrictions

Yes, with restrictions


Yes (milk withdrawal of 60hours)

Yes (milk withdrawal of 60 hours)

Yes (milk withdrawal of 60 hours)

He says this will make it easierr to administer anthelmintics.

“They will spend their transition period at the farm, be milked for one week and then return to whichever unit they came from,” he explains.

In the future, free Elisa milk tests will be used to monitor efficacy and fluke levels within the herd.

“I can send milk samples off to the lab and it can tell you the level of antibodies against fluke for the previous two months,” says Mr Hodgkinson.

“We’ll carry out tests in the autumn after they’ve been out because this is the peak risk period for them to come across fluke while they’re out.

“We can not only save the farmer money, but stave off resistance, because we are reducing the amount of drugs we use,” he adds.

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