Liver fluke infection is still on the rise in British cattle, according to the latest figures released by the Food Standards Agency. Every case of liver fluke costs products up to £30 per head.

Liver fluke infection is still on the rise in British cattle, according to the latest figures released by the Food Standards Agency.

liver flukeThe total percentage of livers that showed confirmed signs of liver fluke infection in cattle sent for slaughter in 2011 has only risen by half a per cent – 22.2 compared to 21.7 in 2010 – but the figures are part of a continuing upward trend.
 
Breaking down the figures, Wales continued to have the highest amount of cases, with 27.71 per cent of livers showing signs of infection – an increase of 2.29 per cent since 2009. Scotland’s affected liver count sits at 28.41 per cent, up from 27.05 per cent in 2010 and 26.85 per cent in 2009, while England’s count is 19.74 per cent, up from 19.38 per cent in 2010 and up nearly two percentage points from 17.97 per cent in 2009.
 
Speaking of the findings, Fiona MacGillivray, Merial Animal Health‘s veterinary advisor, said: “While Scotland and Wales have reported more than one in four cattle having livers affected by fluke for the past two years, figures for England have also increased, such that we seem to be heading towards one in four cattle having fluke-affected livers across Britain.”

Figures from the Veterinary Investigation Diagnosis Analysis (GB) database also show an upward trend in confirmed cases of liver fluke in cattle, with figures nearly tripling since 2001. Furthermore, Britain has just had the wettest April on record and wet weather exacerbates the likelihood of liver fluke.
 
Merial also claims that many farmers do not realise that liver fluke disease is costing them money. In cattle, liver fluke disease is often sub-clinical, so cattle do not show overt signs of infection. However, trials demonstrate that even mild fluke infections can reduce the growth rate of cattle by nine per cent and feed intake by as much as 11 per cent when compared with cattle that have been treated against fluke.
 
Any reduction in growth rate adds days to finishing time and that costs farmers,” says Ms MacGillivray. “Indeed, last year EBLEX [the organisation for the English beef and sheep meat industry] calculated that every case of liver fluke was costing producers between £25 and £30 per head.”

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