Liver fluke can infect cattle, sheep and goats, as well as a range of other animal species, including humans.
Liver flukes have two main life phases - the life stages on pasture and in snails and the life stages in cattle, sheep, goats and other animals. Liver fluke infection reduces animal productivity on-farm. It is also an economic cost to the meat industry due to condemnation of livers.
Condition where liver fluke is likely to occur
- Suitable habitat for snails.
- South-eastern Australia ( the tablelands, coastal regions and irrigation areas of New South Wales and Victoria).
- Properties with a liver fluke history.
- When the liver fluke snail (Lymnea tomentosa) is present on the farm (in marshy areas and/or water troughs).
- Grazing paddocks with access to springs, swampy areas, water courses and irrigated pasture.
Identifying and diagnosing liver fluke
Liver fluke can produce either acute or chronic disease.
Acute disease is most common in sheep and usually occurs from late summer to late autumn. Chronic disease is most common in cattle and can occur any time, but is most common from autumn to spring.
Clinical signs that would lead a producer to suspect liver fluke include the following:
- Bottle jaw.
- Pale gums and membranes around the eyes.
- Weight loss and general ill-thrift, leading to reduced production.
Strategies to prevent liver fluke
- Avoid introducing animals with liver fluke onto your property.
- Quarantine and drench all animals that come from a liver fluke area.
- Always request an animal health statement when purchasing stock so you are aware of the disease status level of assurance that is being provided by the stock vendor.
- Fencing 'flukey' areas to prevent access by livestock.
- Monitoring the fluke status of livestock using either faecal samples to check for fluke eggs, a blood test, or reports on liver condemnations of animals sent for slaughter.
- Strategic use of fluke drenches.