High Risk from Liver Fluke in Cattle this Autumn

UK - Farmers should be alert for liver fluke disease in their cattle according to the latest Parasite Forecast from NADIS. Sponsored by Merial Animal Health, the September forecast warns that parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland are particularly at risk.
calendar icon 13 September 2013
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With the chances of significant fluke infection being present in cattle at the time of housing, treating cattle at this time, rather than delaying until several weeks later, is the best strategy to prevent losses in productivity and increased costs. It may be possible that a second flukicide treatment needs to be given approximately 3 months later if cattle were grazing highly infected pastures prior to housing.

Fiona MacGillivray, Veterinary Advisor for Merial Animal Health says: “In cattle, it’s the adult stage of the parasite that has the greatest impact on productivity, reducing feed intake by 15%1. Recent research suggests that around 97% of fluke in cattle at housing are late immature or mature2, so delaying treatment makes poor financial sense.

“Many farmers don’t recognise the effect of fluke in cattle, since it is often a sub-clinical disease. However, depressed appetite, poor feed conversion and a reduction in liveweight gain of up to 1.2kg/week3 leading to increased finishing times make liver fluke disease an expensive problem on some farms”.

Despite this year’s warm and dry summer, a high level of liver fluke disease is predicted this autumn in areas of northern and western Scotland, and is likely to affect Northern Ireland. The rest of the UK should see a moderate level of disease, NADIS suggests.

The overall forecast for fluke disease is predicted to be lower than in 2012, but wetter areas may still present an unexpectedly high risk.

EBLEX has calculated that the cost of the disease to producers is between £25 and £30 per head, and the financial impact of fluke on the cattle industry in excess of £31,000,000.

The forecast also points out that September is often the peak month for cattle lungworm, though drier summers typically lead to a lower incidence of disease. Naïve and unvaccinated grazing cattle will be most at risk and any animals showing signs of respiratory disease (frequent coughing at rest) should be investigated. With wet weather predicted in the coming weeks, it is likely that cases of lungworm will occur as a result of high numbers of infective larvae released from dungpats onto the pasture.


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