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Liver Fluke - A Growing Threat


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:

  • Warmer temperatures throughout the year.
  • Increased rainfall in autumn and winter.
  • Dry eastern areas becoming wetter; east Anglia and south east Scotland can no longer be regarded as safe.
  • Flooding moving snails infected by the parasite into new areas.
  • The grass growing season increasing by 4 weeks over the past 40 years.
  • Increased movement of liver fluke infected animals around the country.
  • Resistance to some commonly used flukicides.


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.


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A Sustainable Approach to Liver Fluke Control

Read on to understand the 4-key elements of a sustainable liver fluke control plan:


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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:

  • Fix leaky troughs.
  • Avoid poaching ground.
  • Maintain effective drainage

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.

  • Wet, boggy areas are typically high risk.
  • Avoid grazing high risk areas at high risk times of the year (late autumn and winter depending on weather patterns).
  • Use of temporary/electric fencing is useful to prevent access to high risk areas.

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.

  • For each treatment, select the product that will kill the stages of liver fluke that are likely to be present at that time.
  • Use different active ingredients as appropriate at the right time throughout the liver fluke season to reduce the risk of resistance developing to any one active.


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