High liver fluke risk this autumn

Farmers are warned to be proactive with liver fluke management this autumn to ensure no adverse effects to cattle performance are seen, given the high liver fluke risk this year.

Dr Andy Forbes, Control of Worms Sustainability (COWS) technical representative and honorary professor at the University of Glasgow's School of Veterinary Medicine, explains that due to the warmest winter on record for England and Wales this year, and a wet start to the summer, conditions have been ideal for the survival and development of the host snails and the free-living stages of liver fluke.

"Liver fluke is a disease that costs UK agriculture up to £300 million a year through the supply chain alone, with over 245,000 cattle livers rejected in abattoirs annually.

"However, on-farm costs are likely to be much higher than this, though sometimes less obvious, through poor performance, missed production targets and increased spend on feed and veterinary treatments.

"It's therefore vital to keep on top of the disease from both a welfare and economic perspective," he says.

He explains that liver fluke can often be subclinical in cattle, and so it can be difficult for producers to see the direct effect it has on the animal. "What they often overlook is the effect of fluke on growth rates from decreased feed intake, and a gradual loss in animal condition, resulting in extended fattening periods in youngstock and reduced milk yield in cows, which can all affect the bottom line," he adds.

"Producers need to make sure they consult with their vet or SQP to develop and implement an effective control plan to help keep on top of the disease.

"Ideally, it should take into account the COWS 5 R's, and consider both management strategies such as avoiding high risk fluke pastures this autumn, as well as anthelmintic treatment, which may be necessary now, and certainly needs to be implemented over the winter housing period.

"It is vital that your control plan is farm specific. There is no one size fits all solution to parasite control. But, working with your vet or SQP is key to liver fluke control this autumn," says Dr Forbes.

For more information on the sustainable control of cattle parasites, please visit the COWS website at: www.cattleparasites.org.uk or follow us on twitter @COWSworms.

The COWS 5 R's to the effective use of cattle wormers:

  • The right product for the type of worm
  • The right class of animal
  • The right time
  • The right dose rate
  • Administered in the right way

21st September 2016

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