Working Together To Reduce Liver Fluke In Cattle

UK - The National Beef Association (NBA) and the industry can work together to reduce liver fluke incidence in cattle. The NBA has asked abattoir owners to examine ways of passing back information to owners and their vets, whose cattle have liver fluke.
calendar icon 2 March 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

It has noted veterinary fears that widespread fluke infestation, which is being encouraged by a series of damp springs and wet summers, could become endemic.

And is worried that without more precise knowledge of the depth and location of active fluke damage more beef farmers could face additional financial pressure, due to poor feed conversion and fertility performance.

“There can be no doubt that fluke incidence is rising. Back in 2008 it was thought to affect about 20 per cent of cattle, last year the estimate was 22 per cent, and over 2011 even more previously dry pastureland is expected to become waterlogged and so proportionately more stock could be affected as well,” explained NBA director, Kim Haywood.

“The cost to farmers is mounting. Some abattoirs are reporting that on occasions up to 60 per cent of livers are being condemned because of fluke damage. Just a year ago this was reducing collective income by £1 million a year but the value of livers is rising, so losses over 2011 could be even greater.”

It is fortunate that each liver is inspected by the Meat Hygiene Service and that fluke damage is so obvious.

“This means that the processing company can identify the affected animal, and also the farm of origin, through their passport and ear tag number, and would be able to inform the owner of the problem through an information transfer system if one was installed,” said Ms Haywood.

“It would be very helpful to both processors and finishers if this could be done. Liver fluke infection depresses the appetite of affected animals and the reduced feed intake means weight gain is reduced by up to 1.2 kilos a week.”

“This adds £25-£30 per head to the cost of bringing stock to slaughter weight and the collective cost to finishers last year was estimated at £8-£9 million.”

“However it would be of great assistance if cow slaughterers could pass information back too. Fluke infection also affects breeding animals and it is estimated that impaired fertility could extend the calving interval, across an affected suckler herd, by an average of 20 days at a time when the industry is making an all out effort to save a large lump of cost by reducing it.”

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