Prompt action on liver fluke could limit autumn disease

Graziers should monitor livestock for signs of fluke and act on test results now to prevent disease risk later in the year.

If action is not taken and appropriate flukicides are not used, stock could start contaminating pastures, leading to high autumn disease risk, farmers are being warned.

Animal health experts at Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (Scops) and Control of Worms Sustainably (Cows) say care is needed this year despite weather conditions being helpful for farmers.

See also: Silage can pose a liver fluke risk, study shows

Slowed development

Average temperatures have generally been below 10C from December to March which has slowed or stopped fluke development on pasture, says Scops.

A very warm and dry April means snail activity will have been low this spring, which will have subsequently limited fluke development.

However, health experts stress that testing and treating remain vital.

“It is wise to test adult stock now to determine the need for any treatment to limit pasture contamination for the rest of the year,” says Moyna Richey of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha). 

“Across the Apha network this winter and early spring we saw a small number of cases where chronic fluke caused issues in pregnant ewes. In addition, we detected fluke eggs in faecal samples from sheep on farms in Wales and the South West of England.”

Coronavirus guidelines

  • Sample collection and submission may be affected by coronavirus restrictions
  • Check with your veterinary practice about any changes to their usual sample submission and testing procedures before submission
  • If you are submitting samples by post, consider any delays and check which day they recommend you post samples.

Source: Scops

Testing and treatment advice

  • Screen using faecal egg counts Collect samples from 10 sheep or cattle and bag each one separately. They will be combined at the laboratory into a single composite for counting.
  • Screen using coproantigen test Collect samples from six to 10 sheep or cattle and bag individually. They will be tested individually by the laboratory.
  • Fallen stock Post mortem examinations can be carried out for liver fluke.
  • Bulk milk tank recording An option for dairy herds. Quarterly or monthly monitoring can help asses fluke exposure in cows. Testing in the spring can provide you with a baseline value to compare with later in the year.
  • Act if fluke is detected Treat with a product that targets adult fluke, as it’s the adults that are inside the animals at this time of year. Products containing albendazole and oxyclozanide (or clorsulon in cattle) are effective flukicides.

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