Liver fluke in cattle remains a major concern for beef farmers in the North East, despite a small fall in the percentage of liver-fluke condemnations during the first half of 2014, and a drier summer.
According to figures from the Food Standards Agency, condemnation fell from a high of 19 per cent in 2013 to 17 per cent during the first six months of the year.
Callum Blair, veterinary adviser with Merial Animal Health, said: “The fact that around one in six livers in cattle sent to abattoirs in the North East are still affected by liver fluke must concern producers.
“Furthermore the high levels of infection going into this year, coupled with the fact that in dry years stock tend to graze the wetter, higher fluke-risk areas, will mean that the parasite is likely to be an on-going issue on many farms.
“Cattle that are suffering from fluke have reduced feed intake, take longer to finish and cost farmers money.
“By treating at housing to control fluke, farmers can reduce feed costs and finishing times, and maximise productivity.”
The adult stage of the liver-fluke parasite has the greatest effect on productivity, reducing feed intake by up to 15 per cent even where infestations are low, so it’s vitally important that farmers move to treat cattle as soon as possible after housing.
Callum said: “With fluke disease in growing cattle shown to reduce live weight gain by up to 1.2kg/week, the consequences of leaving herds untreated include increased feed requirements and longer finishing times.
“This all adds up to unnecessary extra cost for beef farmers at a time when they can least afford it.
“Indeed 1.2kg additional weight gain per week over a four-month housing period equates to around 19.2kg additional live weight.”
He added: “Assuming a 50 per cent killing out percentage, this means 9.6kg additional dead weight, which even at a price of £3.30 per kg equates to £31.68.”
As well as costing cattle farmers per head of infected animals, fluke infection can also deny them additional profit from fifth quarter sales.