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Department Issues Advice on Liver Fluke

The Department has today issued advice to farmers in relation to liver fluke in livestock based on advice it has received from the Liver Fluke Advisory Group.

A liver fluke disease-forecasting model based on rainfall during summer and early autumn predicts that the risk of liver fluke infection during this autumn and winter is high in all areas including parts of the country not usually considered at risk such as the east and south east of Ireland. The high rainfall and wet weather provided conditions suitable for the propagation of the snail intermediate host and the production of the infective stage of the liver fluke on all types of pasture.

The Advisory Group has advised that farmers should treat cattle and sheep as follows:

Where cattle are routinely housed on farms in late autumn, the timing of the administration of the fluke dose after the animals are brought in for the winter will depend on the type of flukicide used. However, on farms where cattle are kept outdoors on pasture for the winter, treatment should be carried out immediately and these animals may also need a further treatment in the New Year. Treatment of dairy cows for liver fluke is best carried out after drying off and not during lactation. As regards sheep, the advice is that they should be dosed now especially on those farms with a history of liver fluke. In general, further treatments, usually in January and April, are necessary for sheep that are out-wintered. All bought-in cattle and sheep should be kept isolated and dosed with an anthelmintic (preferably a combination of a macrocyclic lactone and levamisole) and flukicide before being allowed to join the main herd or flock. It is important that these drugs are administered sequentially and not mixed. The Advisory Group also advise that farmers should submit faecal samples from a representative number of treated animals (not less than 5) to the Department's local Regional Veterinary Laboratories at least three weeks post treatment to ensure efficacy of the flukicide used.

The Department indicated that the foregoing information is based on a disease forecast model that uses weather data collected during the summer and autumn at Met Éireann weather stations across the country.   

Notes for Editors

  1. The Liver Fluke Advisory Group includes experts from the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Teagasc, Met Éireann, Pharmaceutical Industry and the School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin.
  2. Further information on liver fluke and its control and prevention is available from Teagasc.
  3. The Central Veterinary Laboratory, Backweston, Celbridge, Co Kildare and the Regional Veterinary Laboratories can help veterinary practitioners and farmers by testing dung and blood samples for evidence of fluke eggs, antibodies and associated liver damage as well as monitoring the efficacy of anthelmintic treatment.

Date Released: 30 October 2009