BHC Newsletter Winter FINAL


loss and potential death if severe enough. Rumen fluke can also cause impaired production, diarrhoea and weight loss. The predominant feature of rumen fluke infection in cattle is diarrhoea or “scour”. This is due to the action of immature rumen fluke in the animal’s small intestine. The immature rumen fluke cause damage to the small intestine before migrating back “upstream” to the animal’s rumen. To treat or not to treat? So, in summary the decision as to whether one should treat or not at this time of year is not a straight forward one. How do you know if your animals have liver or rumen fluke present? Many farmers take dung samples and send to a laboratory which checks for the presence of parasites in the dung. However farmers should bear in mind that the time from infection of the animal until liver fluke eggs appear in the faeces may be as long as 4 months, and even then liver fluke shedding may be intermittent. A new test, the coproantigen test, can yield a positive result at an earlier stage of infection, however reliance on faecal testing alone can lead to false negative results in cattle. Farmers should bear in mind the history on the farm. If cattle have been slaughtered recently on the farm, and the abattoir are part of Animal Health Ireland’s Beef HealthCheck programme,

then there should be a post-mortem result from the abattoir available. This report should indicate whether slaughtered cattle had evidence of liver fluke infection at the time of slaughter. If there are dairy cattle on the farm as well, a bulk tank milk sample can be used to look for the presence of antibodies to liver fluke, thereby indicating the presence of liver fluke on the farm. A positive result for any of the above, indicates that treatment for liver fluke is required. However even in the absence of these positive results farmers may still need to treat for liver fluke and should consult with their veterinary practitioner. Rumen fluke eggs are commonly found in faecal samples. The presence of rumen fluke eggs alone should not necessarily be taken as indicating that the animal must be treated for rumen fluke, this is because adult animals can tolerate the presence of rumen fluke in the rumen without any harmful effects. In general, the decision to treat for rumen fluke should be based on the presence or absence of clinical signs related to the disease, i.e. weight loss and diarrhoea, and generally the decision to treat or not should form part of a farm-specific parasite control plan drawn up in association with the farm’s veterinary practitioner.

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