Liver Fluke in Sheep & Cattle

A changing climate appears to be leaving us with wetter summers and warmer winters. Add to this the fact that many smallholders naturally focus on mixed farming and you have a set of circumstances which lead to an increased risk of liver fluke appearing on farms in Hampshire. Undetected fluke will cause production losses in cattle and sheep, and if it doesn’t kill them, it will certainly cause ill health. So, if you are a smallholder and you think you have fluke give us a call for testing, treatment and advice.

Smallholder with fluke – Contact us

What is Liver Fluke?

Liver fluke is a common disease of cattle and sheep caused by the Fasciola hepatica parasite. The parasites can be found in any wet areas around farms be that near permanent water courses, around muddy gateways and water troughs, or just areas that retain moisture after excessive or prolonged rainfall.

The lifecycle of fluke is different from other worm species as it involves a host – the mud snail – which thrives in wet conditions. The snail is penetrated by the parasite, which then multiplies by up to 500 times, before making its way back into herbage to be ingested again by cattle or sheep. The whole lifecycle through the snail & your animals can take from 15 to 30 weeks depending on conditions.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms will almost always include progressive or rapid weight loss, reduced fertility and diarrhoea. If the disease is acute, clinical signs can include anaemia, laboured breathing and abdominal pain (in sheep) or even death. In cattle, acute fluke is rare due to them having a larger liver that can tolerate a greater burden of the parasite.

Tests & treatments

Because any fluke infestation will cause production loss, waiting to treat is really not an option. So, if you spot any of the symptoms above please do get in touch. There are invasive and non-invasive tests we can run to test for fluke and a number of treatments and re treatments that can be administered.

Finally, for now, it’s worth understanding that no fluke treatment has persistency. Which means that animals can become re infected immediately after treatment, if left on contaminated pasture. So, bringing animals off contaminated pasture, avoiding over grazing and moving them around if you can will all help.

We’ll write more on liver fluke in future articles, but if you do have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call our farm vets on 01425 657700.