New booklet advises farmers on controlling liver fluke

Apr 4 2012

A new booklet giving farmers advice on how to deal with liver fluke in their sheep and cattle is the culmination of four years research at Welsh academic institutions.

Published by Hybu Cig Cymru - Meat Promotion Wales, the booklet provides information and guidelines for producers on how best to protect their livestock from the disease and also how to prolong the life of the treatments available.

In recent years Wales has seen an increase in both the number of farms affected with liver fluke and the severity of infections on farms traditionally affected by the parasite, said Lynfa Davies, HCC's Technical Development Executive.

This trend has been accompanied by an increasing number of farms reporting reduced effectiveness of flukicides containing triclabendazole (TCBZ).

The research found that the best long term strategy is to use flukicides in rotation, ensuring parasites do not come in contact with just one flukicide, said Mrs Davies. A commonly suggested rotation is using closantel or nitroxynil in the spring and TCBZ in the autumn/winter.

It is important, however, to tailor treatment plans to individual circumstances to ensure maximum cover and longevity of all flukicides and therefore advice should be sought from your vet.

A succession of wet summers and mild winters in Wales between 2006 and 2009 saw a major increase in the number of cases of acute liver fluke due to the successful overwintering of eggs and the ideal conditions for the intermediate snail host to thrive and pass on the infection in wet or muddy areas.

Although farmers are not penalised for condemned livers discovered following slaughter, a damaged liver will affect production with infected animals losing approximately 1.2kg of weight per week.

The booklet gives a range of advice including diagnosis, drainage and fencing of land, quarantine and drug resistance.

It also includes five key fluke facts:

  • Liver fluke must first infect a snail to live, so livestock on well-drained soil are less likely to pick up the parasite.
  • Farmers should stay vigilant and monitor livestock for signs of the disease.
  • Take time and use treatments correctly - greater care at the point of treatment will lead to fewer losses to liver fluke in future.
  • Consider long-term controls, such as drainage, fencing and grazing rotations.
  • Quarantine controls are a must, and if farmers have TCBZ resistant fluke in their livestock they possibly have it forever.

Full details are contained in the bilingual booklet, Controlling Liver Fluke on Welsh Farms, which is available online at or by telephoning HCC on 01970 625050.

The booklet has been published following four years of research into the problem by the Institute for Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University in collaboration with the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen and the Welsh Regional Veterinary Centre in Gelli Aur, Carmarthen.

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