Millions of pounds are lost every year by livestock producers due to liver fluke with the cost of disease per affected animal noted as £6 per lamb and £90 per calf.1 Now spreading to new regions liver fluke can increasingly be found throughout the UK, largely due to the impact of climate change. All these factors favour liver fluke:
Due to the lengthening of seasons, and the impact of warm, wet weather on the liver fluke lifecycle, the liver fluke challenge can now be higher for a longer period with the risk of high fluke burdens in both sheep and cattle extending throughout the year if not treated effectively.
A Sustainable Approach to Liver Fluke Control
Read on to understand the 4-key elements of a sustainable liver fluke control plan:
Treating for liver fluke in the late spring/summer (see page 8) to remove remaining adult liver fluke thereby reducing the number of liver fluke eggs reaching the pasture at a time when snails are active. This reduces the number of infected snails that maintain the liver fluke lifecycle into the autumn.
Managing pasture to minimise snail habitats and reduce snail numbers which in turn reduces the number of infective stages released onto pasture. Measures to consider include:
The infective stages of liver fluke will only be found where snails have been present. Grazing management therefore can reduce livestock’s exposure to snail habitats and infective cysts and so reduce/limit the number of infective cysts (Metacercaria) ingested by grazing animals.
Treating animals with flukicides is an essential part of maintaining good animal welfare and performance. As the liver fluke season is now more variable and covers a larger part of the year, the traditional set time of treating in the autumn/winter is unlikely to give full control. Therefore, a more strategic, targeted approach should be implemented.
1. Schweizer, G., Braun, U., Deplazes, P., Torgerson, P.R., 2005. Estimating the financial losses due to bovine fasciolosis in Switzerland. Vet. Rec. 157,188–193.