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Department Issues Advice on Liver Fluke

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food today issued advice to farmers in relation to liver fluke in livestock based on advice it received from the Liver Fluke Advisory Group.

A liver fluke disease-forecasting model based on weather conditions during summer and autumn predicts that the risk of liver fluke is high in all areas of the country except for the southeast where the risk is moderate. The higher than normal temperatures and normal rainfall totals, although unevenly distributed throughout the summer but mainly confined to July and September, have provided conditions suitable for the propagation of the snail intermediate host and the production of the infective stage of the parasite.

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

  • For those cattle 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.
  • 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.  Dairy farmers should be particularly careful to use an appropriate flukicide only, and should take the advice of their co-ops or the Irish Medicines Board in this regard.
  • As regards sheep, the advice is that they should be dosed now especially on those farms with a history of liver fluke. In general, for sheep that are out-wintered, further treatments, usually in January and April are necessary.
  • All bought-in cattle and sheep should be kept isolated and dosed with a combination of two anthelmintics with different modes of action e.g. a macrocyclic lactone and levamisole, and a flukicide before being allowed to join the main herd or flock.

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 anthelmintics and 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 and Animal Health Ireland.
  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: 13 December 2010