Liver fluke is a parasite affecting sheep and cattle in the UK. It has a serious impact on animal health, productivity and control is based mainly on treatment. It is also common, 80% of dairy herds have positive readings on bulk tank tests and 21% of cattle show evidence of infection at slaughter. A recent study in high yielding dairy herds suggested that high fluke herds produce 1,100kg milk per cow per lactation less than low fluke herds.
Fluke is a growing problem for the farming industry; the parasite thrives in wet, muddy conditions and our changing climate, with higher rainfall and milder winters, are providing more favourable conditions for the fluke life cycle.
Resistance to wormers containing the product triclabendazole is widespread in parts of UK, so finding alternative means of controlling fluke infections rather than relying largely on drug treatments is essential for the long-term sustainability of livestock farming.
To meet these challenges a large-scale research project was commissioned, led by the University of Liverpool working with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Moredun Research Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), and funded by BBSRC and AHDB Beef & Lamb; Dairy; Hybu Cig Cymru, Quality Meat Scotland and Agrisearch is aimed at improving the control of fluke. It is well established that rainfall is a key driver of the fluke life cycle and high rainfall normally results in increasing risk of fluke. But farm specific factors can play an important part in determining if a farm has fluke. This project is designed to identify those factors so that farmers can modify their management systems to reduce the risk of fluke. To be able to do that, it is important that we fully understand the costs of fluke to beef and dairy production so that cost-effective measures can be put in place.
Translating research into practice
As the project is now moving towards its conclusion, the scientists involved are now in a position to start communicating the findings of the research. AgriSearch are hosting the first major industry knowledge transfer event associated with this project. The event will be of interest to veterinary surgeons, advisors and farmers.
10.00–10.25 Registration Tea / Coffee
10:30-10:50 COWS – what is it and what can it do for your farm? Mary Vickers (AHDB)
10:50-11:10 Introduction to Liver Fluke and improved diagnosis Philip Skuce (Moredun Research Inst)
11:10-11:30 How much is fluke costing you? Sue Tongue (SRUC)
11:30-11:50 All about the snail Nicola Beesley (University of London)
11:50-12:10 Impact of fluke on the health of cattle John Graham-Brown (University of London)
12:10-12:45 Discussion Panel / Q&A
12:45 Lunch and networking