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Fluke - Review Parasite Control

30 Mar 2018

Fluke in cattle

Fluke Control 

Turnout is the perfect time to review parasite control plans.

The focus is often on gut worms in first season grazers, but it is important to remember that liver fluke can have a serious impact on cattle of all ages, as they never develop effective immunity.

Due to the seasonal nature of the fluke life cycle, animals with a burden will have adult flukes present in their bile ducts and gallbladder (fig 1). This is the most pathogenic stage of liver fluke in cattle and has the greatest effect on productivity, reducing feed intake by up to 15% even where infestations are low. But this does give the opportunity to target fluke prior to turnout – don’t let fluke out of the house!

In untreated cattle, adults are able to survive for at least six months and fluke eggs can be shed throughout the year. Peak concentrations of eggs in faeces are normally found from January to March, which coincides with the presence of overwintered adult fluke in untreated cattle, infected during the previous season.

Fluke eggs shed last autumn can survive freezing winter temperatures and will continue to develop when temperatures rise above 10oC. Avoid the reuse of high-risk winter pastures in the spring and utilise any safe pasture not grazed by cattle or sheep in the previous year for turnout. If beef cattle were not treated at housing, after grazing potentially fluke-infected pastures they should be checked for the presence of fluke eggs in faeces. If positive, treat and move them to fluke-free pastures.

Although adult flukes predominate when the housing dose may have been administered, no fluke treatment is 100% effective - particularly against the early, immature stages. For this reason, if animals only received a single dose at housing, it is still worth checking them for eggs prior to turnout.

When choosing a fluke treatment at this time of year, all efforts must be taken to reduce reliance on triclabendazole. Closantel, nitroxynil (TRODAX®), oxyclozanide and albendazole (at the fluke dose rate) are all effective against adult fluke.

Considering liver fluke as part of the parasite control programme prior to turnout can minimise the impact this parasite will have on the productivity of fluke infected farms.


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