Liver fluke in cattle remains a major concern for beef farmers inNorth-East England despite a small fall in the percentage of liver flukecondemnations during the first half of 2014, and a drier summer. According tofigures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) condemnation fell from a high of19% in 2013 to 17% during the first six months of 2014.
Callum Blair, Veterinary Adviser with Merial Animal Health says: Thefact that around one in six livers in cattle sent to abattoirs in theNorth-East are still affected by liver fluke must concern producers. Furthermore the highlevels of infection going into this year, coupled with the fact that in dryyears stock tend to graze the wetter, higher fluke risk areas, will mean thatthe parasite is likely to be an on-going issue on many farms.
Cattlethat are suffering from fluke have reduced feed intake, take longer to finishand cost farmers money. By treating at housing to control fluke,farmers can reduce feed costs and finishing times, and maximise productivity.
The adult stage of the liver fluke parasitehas the greatest effect on productivity, reducing feed intake by up to 15% even where infestations are low, so its vitally important that farmersmove to treat cattle as soon as possible after housing.
With fluke disease in growing cattle shownto reduce live weight gain by up to 1.2kg/week, the consequences ofleaving herds untreated include increased feed requirements and longerfinishing times. This all adds up to unnecessary extra cost for beef farmers ata time when they can least afford it, Callum adds.
Indeed 1.2kg additional weight gain perweek over a four month housing period equates to around 19.2kg additionallive weight. Assuming a 50% killing out percentage this means 9.6kgadditional dead weight, which even at a price of 3.30 per kg equates to31.68. With a 300kg dose of Ivomec Super or Trodax costingapproximately 2.40 or 2.00 respectively this means a return on investmentratio of more than 13:1 and these days there are not many situations where youcan achieve this level of return.
As well as costing cattle farmers per head of infected animals, flukeinfection can also deny them additional profit from fifth quarter sales.
Previous advice suggested postponingtreatment for several weeks after cattle have been housed, to allow earlyimmature fluke to mature into adults. However, research published in 2013has shown that most liver fluke have reached the adult stage at housing sodelaying treatment is potentially counter-productive.