Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Flukicide ban sees a rise in liver fluke

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The ban on some of the most popular flukicides for controlling immature fluke has led to an increase in the levels of year-round liver fluke infestations in dairy herds, according to one of Teagasc's disease experts.

With the latest studies showing liver burdens of up to 99pc in Irish cattle livers, Riona Sayers, of Teagasc's herd health unit in Moorepark, says that liver fluke is costing Irish farmers up to €50m a year.

"While there are no studies that have quantified the extent of this problem yet, there is a growing problem out there because the right products aren't available for farmers in regions where control of immature liver fluke is an issue," she said.

According to Ms Sayers, even optimum managed herds are suffering.

"Our research shows that liver fluke levels have actually been rising in Moorepark over the past two years," she added.

Flukicides such as Fasinex, Ivomec super and Trodax that were effective against immature fluke have all been banned for use in milking cows since March last year.

While spring-calving herds have been able to keep fluke under control using products from the approved list during the dry period, autumn-calving herds and even some spring-calving herds in flukey areas are having much greater difficulty controlling fluke infestations.

Vets are allowed to prescribe flukicides from the restricted use list for herds where they believe it is justified. But Ms Sayers said that most vets are reluctant to prescribe these in the absence of an agreed protocol.

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"Strict adherence to milk withdrawal periods with flukicides is critical," said Ms Sayers.

"Our trials have found that if there are residues in the milk, they also end up in the final product for many weeks afterwards. If these types of residues were picked up in subsequent quality assurance audits by international buyers, it would have disastrous consequences for the whole Irish dairy industry."

Ms Sayers said that it is unlikely that new products will come on stream that will be effective against immature fluke without leaving residues in milk.

"All the stakeholders need to get together on this to hammer out a workable protocol so that vets can be assured that they are doing the right thing when trying to help farmers suffering with this disease in herds," she concluded.

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