Warning on liver fluke

THE wet spring and summer caused much hardship for farmers in terms of difficult grazing conditions, poor grass growth and ultimately poor quality saved forages. However, the worst may have yet to come in the form of liver fluke, accoding to Norbrook's Veterinary Advisor Maura Langan.

"The wet conditions experienced throughout the summer support an explosion in the levels of liver fluke on pasture and therefore the burden cattle and sheep are carrying will be greater," she said.

Maura's warning comes just as the Department of Agriculture issued a liver fluke alert, which predicts that the risk of infestation is very high.

"The consequences of a liver fluke infestation can be catastropic to a herd. Liver fluke disease can have a profound affect on the productivity of growing and fattening cattle. Research shows that high levels of fluke infestation in cattle can reduce weight gains by a staggering 28%... In cattle, losses of €40 up to €250 per head are common as a result of chronic liver fluke infections," she said.

The Department is advising farmers to ensure that any treatments used are effective against immature liver fluke as well as mature and to consider a second treatment 4-6 weeks after the first to ensure the risk is minimised.

"Generally speaking, when treating for fluke there are two options - treat cattle at housing or house and wait a number of weeks. However, this year most cattle coming in off pasture will have a very heavy burden of fluke and it is therefore advisable to treat at housing for fluke and consider a retreatment later in the housing period," Maura said.