Beef and dairy farmers should test for liver fluke before deciding on the most effective treatment this autumn.

Vet, Matt Colston, of Elanco Animal Health, tol The SF that while the fluke forecast is low to medium risk this year, following a cool spring and dry summer, the risk varied around the country and between farms. Also, the fluke’s host, the mud snail, will continue to thrive in wet areas, pond margins and ditches.

Read more: Liver fluke costs cattle industry £40.4m per year

“It’s vital to understand the fluke lifecycle and the influence of the weather, ground conditions, grazing management and timing of housing. Fluke level and stage of development must be monitored on each individual farm so that the right treatment can be used at the right time,” he said.

‘Low risk’ does not mean ‘no risk’ and choosing the most effective fluke product will help cattle to perform well over winter, helping to prevent liver damage and associated negative impacts on milk production, fertility, growth rate and time to finish.

A recent study showed that animals with between one and 10 liver fluke present at slaughter took on average 31 days longer to finish, while those with more than 10 fluke present took on average 77 days longer . Fluke are likely to have a similar impact on efficiency of feed utilisation for adult cows.

None of the products currently on the market are able to kill all the fluke life stages present and treatments at the first point of housing will always leave some fluke behind, so there is a balance to be struck, he added. “As the risk is low this year, it’s likely that the best results will come from treating after the point of housing.

“The other option is to treat at the point of housing to remove as many fluke as possible, as soon as possible – but the downside of this is having to do a second treatment to remove leftover fluke,” he explained.

Triclabendazole (eg Fasinex 240) will remove the majority of fluke in cattle two weeks after first housing, while closantel and nitroxynil should be used seven to eight weeks after housing, with albendazole, oxyclosanide and clorsulon targeted for treatment at 10-12 weeks after first housing.

With winter feed in short supply in many areas, it will be doubly important to get the balance right and farmers should speak to their vet or animal health adviser for guidance on appropriate diagnostic tests and treatment. All cattle, including adults, should be treated for liver fluke, he said.

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