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Being smart about fluke

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Being smart about fluke!

One of the issues I’m seeing increasingly is confusion on the ground. This confusion often is based on technical overload. With so much information coming at you, what do I need to know, what is relevant to me?. With all this noise about animal health what’s actually relevant to me and my farm?

Liver fluke is one of those diseases. So many products and so many figures. We all want to look and sound smart when giving advice. But that smart technical advice will have little impact if we don’t take care about how we communicate it?

So what do people need to fundamentally understand about liver fluke.
1. Wet warm weather in the autumn time will increase the numbers of the mudsnail which is vital in increasing exposure to fluke when present on farm. Understands the conditions the mudsnail likes and avoiding animals grazing there where possible(not always possible in the real world).
2. You need to understand the risks then if weather is favourable. Have you history of fluke on the farm? Have you any evidence from factories in relation to active or chronic fluke in livers. In dairy cows looking at bulk milk antibodies over time to see increases. Faecal egg counts and any signs of the clinical symptoms of fluke. Your own vet is best placed to interpret risk on your flock or herd.
3. Picking the right product? This is based on understanding the fluke cycle. The ingested cercariae travel through the gut and migrate to the liver. These are early immature fluke (the kids). These early immatures (teenagers)then travel through the liver causing damage. This damage is dependent on numbers. Then finally adult fluke reside in gall bladder producing eggs which are passed out continuing the cycle and levels of infection on pasture. This cycle in the animal can take 10-14 weeks.
So certain products will kill certain stages. This is further complicated in the dairy cow by having a limited number of products licensed or available for use.
4. The cost of disease? The liver is one of those vital organs in a ruminants body, anything that affects it will inhibit production and immunity. Liver fluke can directly affect production but can also open the door to other diseases like salmonella, clostridium and more. If you have fluke it is costing you money and affecting the performance of your flock or herd!!!!
5. Timing these doses and using the correct amount and route. For example if you house animals and give them an adult flukicide (killing only adult fluke) you can miss the kids and teenagers that could potentially be doing lots of damage to the liver. This can often be overcome by repeating a dose in 8 weeks. The problem is there is about six active ingredients but about 50 different products. This is where your vet can filter information about product choice based on what the risk is.
Another example in sheep is acute fluke can be a big issue (kids and teenagers). If this is a risk triclabendazole is the product of choice. However it is the only agent that we are now seeing resistance in sheep in. Again meaning picking the dose and talking to your vet about the results of treatment is very important.
We often have to chose the route also based on how easy we can administer it? Our handling facilities can dictate our choices. There are pouron flukicides but just make sure they are the right choice for your herd.
6. Post mortems, if any sheep or cattle are found dead or dying a post mortem is hugely valuable particularly at this time of year to asssess livers for any evidence of fluke.

I have spent five years in college and read lots and keep up to date. Even with that I still get confused sometimes with so much changing. That is why I focus on the tell me what I need to know?i believe we need to keep it simple and focus on basic things that can impact on performance. Recognising every farm is different and has different levels of risk is really important also. Such as wet land, heavy stocking, out wintering etc etc.
One of the big issues we will face in the coming years is parasite control at pasture. Mainly because of favourable weather for these parasites to reproduce. Smart choices around dosing is going to be increasingly important.

One last thing any product purchased should not be about price on the day. The true reflection of the cost of the product is the financial return on its use. Which can be a huge difference on what seems like good value when you take your wallet out.
Assess your risk talk to your vet about which product, which route, withdrawals etc. There is some farms with no fluke and are using lots of flukicides as well? So be smart about controlling fluke and use your vet as a filter for the all this noise (huge number of products).

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