A Liver and Rumen Fluke Research Briefing with keynote speaker Dr Philip Skuce of the Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh attracted over 60 vets from practices province wide reports Rodney Magowan. Other speakers were Dr Ryan Law, Dunbia and host Mairéad O’Grady MSD Animal Health.
OLD FOE THREATENS FARM INCOMES
THOUGH the life cycle of the Liver Fluke and the risk this parasite poses to profitability has long been known to farmers it remains a potent threat to livestock health Dr Skuce warns. “Even the long dry summer and autumn of 2014 does not mean fluke won’t be a problem as last winter was wet and mild. Indeed predicting fluke risk has become more problematic.
“From the 1950s until recent years the Ollerenshaw Index was used to prepare fluke forecasts and allow farmers to give timely doses. In more recent times, possible climate change, drug resistance, increased animal movements and EU environmental schemes encouraging land owners to protect wet ground have all combined to make forecasting harder.
“This means farmers, more than ever, must to plan ahead to protect stock with the advice of their vets and using the correct flukicide at each stage of the life cycle.
“Remember, it is vital you know what active ingredients are in the different fluke products on offer as some flukicides kill only mature fluke whereas some others also hit immature fluke. Vets can advise on this and check if there is a resistance problem with any particular fluke dose. Dairy farmers also need to comply with recent rulings that limit their options to products containing Albendazole or Oxyclozanide for use during lactation.”
Continuing Dr Skuce, a native of Northern Ireland, who joined the Moredun Research Institute in 1995, warned that keeping fluke at bay also makes good business sense. “Taking time to develop a strategy to control and prevent Liver Fluke will yield dividends as this parasite reduces milk yield and DLWG in cattle. One investigation found the cost of lost production from beef cattle was up to £250 a head.
“For milk producers fluke on the farm means heifers not reaching target weights for age and a longterm drop in yield. Likewise sheep deaths due to severe fluke infestation are seen all too often and overall flock performance suffers.
“With fluke risk forecasting more problematic, rising resistance to drugs and changes in legislation producers must plan to protect their businesses from the new threat this old foe poses to profits.”
NEW RUMEN FLUKE STRAIN
ASKED if Rumen Fluke was likely to pose a major new threat to livestock performance Dr Skuce noted that despite all the anecdotal reports regarding rumen fluke just two cases have been reported to date, one in sheep, the other in cattle..
“These deaths were caused by Rumen Fluke on flooded farms across the water; however these parasites are becoming more common. Over the past decade Rumen Fluke eggs have started to appear in dung samples taken from cattle and sheep across the British Isles.
“Indeed recent AFBI veterinary investigations found that about 30% of sheep and 40% of cattle in NI now have Rumen Fluke. So far the clinical importance of Rumen Fluke seems very marginal compared to that of Liver Fluke, but many farmers are reporting that successfully treating stock that have Rumen Fluke leads to improved animal performance.”
Dr Skuce added that current work at the Moredun has found that the strain of Rumen Fluke in the British Isles is ‘Calicopharon daubney’ and not Paramphistomum cervi as previously thought. The potential significance of this finding is that C daubney is the main species of Rumen Fluke found on the European mainland and is known to favour the same mud snail as liver fluke as its intermediate host.
This would back up reports of Rumen Fluke being a problem on drier land with no fresh water or river boundaries.
“As always, farmers fearing a problem with fluke should take dung samples to their vet for analysis as large numbers of immature Rumen Fluke in the intestine can cause ill thrift or diarrhoea. There is no licensed treatment available for rumen fluke. However, we are aware that oxyclozanide is effective against rumen fluke which means rumen fluke can be controlled as a result of dosing with oxyclozanide-containing products such as Zanil to treat liver fluke.”