Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are working on a new four-year campaign to tackle liver fluke in cattle.

The £1 million project – led by the University of Liverpool – will include work with SRUC, the Moredun Institute and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and will look at how to improve the detection and control of the infection, which is thought to cost the UK economy £300 million each year.

The disease – which is transmitted by the dwarf pond snail and found on more than 75% of UK dairy farms – causes cattle to lose weight, become anaemic, lethargic and reduces productivity in dairy and beef herds. Outside the UK, there have also been examples of it being transmitted to humans.

The project, which is collaborating with the farming industry, aims to:

  • improve management of fluke
  • use drug treatment sustainably
  • create practical differences in farming techniques and
  • develop detection processes to mitigate the impact of the disease on the UK farming industry.

As well as improving the use of treatments at specific times of year to slow the development of drug resistance, the team will also create a system to categorise snail habitats that can be used alongside satellite imagery for individual farms.

Veterinary parasitologist Diana Williams, from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “This disease is on the increase, partly due to climate change and changes in farming practices and it is fast becoming difficult to treat because of growing resistance to medication.

“We will also look at husbandry practices and physical and environmental factors from a study of 250 farms to feed into statistical and mathematical models that will help us determine more effectively why some farms have fluke while others in close proximity do not.”

The initiative is cofunded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, as well as the meat and milk levy boards EBLEX, Meat Promotion Wales, Quality Meat Scotland, AgriSearch and DairyCo.

For more information, visit SRUC’s website.

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