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Liver fluke infections

A growing problem in livestock farming

Liver fluke disease is a growing threat to the health of dairy cattle and other ruminants in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Various factors are playing a role:

•             The infection cycle is complex
•             Diagnostic  options are limited
•             Treatment options are limited
•             Information feedback within the production chain is incomplete (e.g. when infected livers are rejected at the slaughterhouse, farmers are not always informed)

Liver fluke infection may lead to production losses. However, hardly any treatment options are available for animals that produce milk for human consumption: most chemicals have been banned due to the risk of residues in the milk. Furthermore, the parasite is becoming increasingly resistant to the few drugs that are still allowed.

Climate change

In the Netherlands, liver fluke disease is a growing problem due to the warmer and wetter seasons (particularly spring and autumn). In recent years an increasing number of dairy farms have become infected. Putting cows out to pasture increases their risk of infection. However, keeping cows permanently indoors is not a desirable solution, because a growing number of consumers find it important that cows are able to graze or at least to get outside. 

More knowledge and alternative treatment options needed

Livestock farmers urgently need more knowledge and preventative measures to curb the disease. They also need alternative treatment options to effectively control the parasite and prevent it from developing complete resistance to existing drugs. The partners in the project Integral Animal Health: Liver fluke disease and gastro-intestinal worms (2014-2016) have developed a tool which addresses these needs.

Tool in testing phase

The tool developed by the project partners (among which the Louis Bolk Institute) enables dairy farmers to assess liver fluke prevalence and risk factors on their farms, and to select the best measures to prevent liver fluke infection. A first version of this tool is now being tested and fine-tuned. Research results are expected to be published in 2017.

 

 
Keeping cows indoors to prevent liver fluke infection is not a desirable solution for dairy farmers

 

 

Project leader

Cynthia Verwer

Animal Health& Welfare