The Department of Agriculture have issued their Fluke Forecast for the winter months, warning farmers to remain vigilant as the majority of areas are at a moderate risk of infection.
This is due to the extended dry weather conditions experienced during the summer months this year and the Department warn that places in the west, north, southwest and the Midlands are of the highest risk of Fluke infections.
They say there is a lower risk expected for the east and parts of the south of the country. Check out the Fluke Forecast map below!
What is Liver Fluke?
Liver Fluke is caused by the trematode parasite, Fasciola hepatica.
It can affect both cattle and sheep. It is mainly influenced by the climate, with milder winters and wet summers leading to an increased risk year after year. Other minor causes include increased stock movement, intensification of farming and triclabendazole resistance. Disease in animals is caused when the flukes migrate through the animal’s body and burrow into the liver tissues or when adult flukes find their way onto bile ducts of the liver, causing inflammation.
The fluke cycle involves two separate hosts, the mud snail and cattle/sheep. Both hosts must be present for the fluke’s cycle to continue. In Sheep, liver fluke disease can be found in three stages, Acute, Subacute and Chronic.
Acute infections usually occur in Autumn or early Winter, with a reduction in weight and weight gains the main sign. In fact, an infected lamb can lose up to 30% of its weight gain.
Subacute infections mainly occur in the Winter and result in the rapid weight loss in an animals. It also leads to lower fertility rates and lambing percentages, while a sheep’s fleece quality will also be affected.
In the Chronic stage, which occurs in both Winter and Summer, an animal will succumb to major weight loss, with some having a bottle jaw and some could even die.
There are many different treatments (anthelmintic) available for Liver Fluke in local co-ops and veterinary practices, although which to use is down to what stage of fluke is infecting the animal.
The repeated use of the same products can also lead to flukes developing and resisting the treatment, as a virus would in humans. Triclabendazole is one product which is effective in tackling all stages of the infestation while supplying improved nutrition to your stock also helps immensely.
The department of agriculture usually advises the treatment for liver fluke to be carried out in November, January and again in April. Although treatment may be required as often as every 7-8weeks depending on your farm's history with the disease. It is advised to consult your vet when choosing a treatment or devising a prevention programme.
One such product which has proven more than capable in Fluke control is Tribex 10% by Chanelle. You can watch and read more about that here.
To keep up to date with the Departments Fluke Forecast updates or to read the most recent Forecast see here