2013-06-12 facebooktwitterrss
Plan Ahead for Effective Liver Fluke Control

The level of liver fluke disease in sheep is on the rise. Between September 2012 and February 2013, AFBI’s diagnostic database recorded the highest number of liver fluke cases since 2002-03.

The very wet summer of 2012 provided ideal conditions for liver flukes and their intermediate host, a mud snail that lives in wet, boggy areas. The high risk period started in August when high levels of the infective stages of liver fluke were present on pasture, leading to large numbers being ingested by grazing animals. The poor summer also resulted in more lambs than normal remaining on farms during the main risk period for liver fluke.

Jason Barley, AFBI VSD, will be on the AgriSearch stand during NSA 2013 Sheep NI event at Ballymena

Jason Barley, AFBI VSD, will be on the AgriSearch stand during NSA 2013 Sheep NI event at Ballymena

Acute liver fluke is difficult to diagnose because eggs are not present in the dung at this stage so a lot of damage can be done to the liver before the fluke are detected. Drugs which kill liver flukes (flukicides) do not all kill the same stages of parasite.

Damage due to acute liver fluke in a lamb’s liver. This early infection would not be detected by dung egg counts

Damage due to acute liver fluke in a lamb’s liver. This early infection would not be detected by dung egg counts

Some have much better activity against early immature flukes than others. Also some strains of liver fluke are developing resistance to triclabendazole, a commonly used flukicide with very good activity against early immature flukes. Thus it is vital that liver fluke control programmes are both effective and sustainable.

Chronic liver fluke disease in a ewe, the damage to this liver is irreversible and could cause metabolic disease problems in subsequent pregnancies.

Chronic liver fluke disease in a ewe, the damage to this liver is irreversible and could cause metabolic disease problems in subsequent pregnancies.

Damaged livers cost money so early detection and diagnosis is vital.

This can be done by:
1. Using abattoir feedback
2. Investigating deaths
3. Watching out for clinical signs (weight loss, ill-thrift, sudden death, swelling under the chin).
4. Using performance indicators (ewe body condition, live weight gains, etc)
5. Asking your vet about liver fluke egg detection tests.

AFBI


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