How to control Liver and Rumen Fluke on your farm

Eoghan MacConnell

A combination of grazing management and flukicide is key to dealing with Liver and Rumen Fluke as overuse of drugs can lead to resistance, Dr Theo De Waal of UCD explained at the Teagasc National Beef Conference.

A recent survey found 82pc of Irish cattle herds are exposed to Liver Fluke and it has been estimated that the parasite results in the loss of around €60m a year through reduced production, weight gain and conception rates.

Dr Waal outlined the growing prevalence of Rumen Fluke in Ireland, which although not as likely to cause disease in livestock can lead to weight loss and even death. Currently, oxyclozanide (normally marketed as a treatment for liver fluke) is the only drug with proven efficacy against immature and mature Rumen Fluke infections, according to Dr Waal.

As with Liver Fluke, Rumen Fluke share the same intermediate host, the mud snail. It lives in wet ground and grazing waterlogged pastures puts livestock at significant risk, particularly during a wet summer when temperatures are higher. Due to the parasites lifecycle, livestock generally show signs of infections in the late autumn.

Dr Waal advised farmers to reduce the possibility of exposure to Liver and Rumen Fluke larvae on pasture by restricting access to fields, or parts of fields, which are or have been wet or water logged. Fence-off draining ditches, ponds and other watercourses as this will also reduce exposure.

He also advised farmers to avoid the over-use of any flukicide in order to prevent the development of resistance. He said this is especially important in the case of Rumen Fluke, where the indiscriminate use of a single compound like oxyclozanide over several years can lead to the development of resistance. Resistance of Liver Fluke to triclabendazole, albendazole and closantel has also been reported, he explained.

Dr Waal said abattoir feedback and regular faecal examinations were important to identify infected animals. He also recommended quarantining bought animals to prevent fluke being brought onto a farm.

He urged farmers to use the correct drugs at the correct cycle of the fluke’s development. However, he advised of the “need to reduce our dependence on using these drugs and probably use things like pasture management more to control these parasites.”

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In an outbreak situation of both Liver Fluke and even with Rumen Fluke, Dr Waal said it is important that the animals be moved from the pasture because the drugs do not have any residual effect, so animals who continue to be exposed to infected areas will continue to contract fluke.

He urged farmers work out and implement control strategies for their farms with the assistance of a vet or Teagasc adviser. Dr Waal advised farmers to watch out for the Department of Agriculture’s annual fluke forecast and to avail of the information the Animal Health Ireland website at

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