Farmers advised to stay vigilant on liver fluke

The Welsh livestock sector is being warned not to assume that 2018’s hot summer will make liver fluke less of a problem this year, according to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC).

While the latest parasite report from NADIS (National Animal Disease Information Service) has not identified any areas of Wales as being at particularly high risk, they also warn that localised outbreaks are likely to occur – particularly on farms which have areas of wet pasture.

Liver fluke can be spread to both sheep and cattle leading to chronic health problems which can reduce fertility in livestock, lower growth rates and increase susceptibility to other conditions.

The mud snail is the intermediate host and is of paramount importance in completing the life cycle. These mud snails live in wet habitats and are found all year round, with populations reaching peak towards the end of the summer.

It is estimated that liver fluke costs UK agriculture £300 million a year, though the cost of treatment and reduced production efficiency.

HCC supports research into detecting and reducing the prevalence of liver fluke on Welsh farms and has recently appointed Dr. Rebekah Stuart as its Flock and Herd Health Executive, tasked with improving the red meat supply chain through pro-active animal health measures.

Liver fluke is one of the most significant flock and herd health problems which can have a detrimental impact on on-farm profitability.

“Farmers can assess whether their livestock is harbouring the parasite through a range of measures, including faecal egg count (FEC) testing to indicate if adult fluke are present in the animal, and Coproantigen testing which may detect the presence of fluke in sheep a little earlier than an FEC test. Information is also available from abattoirs.

“Industry bodies are warning that the dry summer isn’t a guarantee that there’ll be a lower risk this year.

“Therefore farmers, particularly those with areas of wet pasture, are being advised to be vigilant.”