LIVER fluke are an important cause of production loss and sometimes mortality in livestock on the tablelands. Last month several producers lost sheep from acute fluke infestation. An autopsy revealed the liver damage was extraordinary. In some, the liver looked more like a roll of devon after the pup had finished with it.
Old hands tell me of heavy losses in livestock both from fluke and black disease, if stock weren’t treated regularly. Fortunately, pioneering research particularly by Dr Joe Boray, some conducted in the Rydal –Hampden area of the central tablelands, has answered many questions and provides us with the tools to control fluke. However, some questions remain.
In March this year I mentioned that in partnership with Virbac Animal Health and cattle producers from the eastern tablelands, we planned to conduct trials aiming to answer three questions on fluke in young cattle.
The first question was; how many mobs of young cattle have evidence of liver fluke infestation at weaning.
We screened 21 mobs of cattle from 17 properties. Using the new faecal antigen test, validated by CSU Wagga in conjunction with Virbac, we found that mobs of young cattle from seven of 17 properties (41 per cent) had evidence of fluke.
Our second question was how many have resistance to the long-standing fluke treatment, triclabendazole (Fasinex for example). We conducted a drench effectiveness test on six of the seven properties on which we found fluke.
We obtained meaningful results on five of these farms. In all cases, triclabendazole was highly effective. Therefore, we have not yet found evidence of triclabendazole resistance in fluke in cattle on the central tablelands.
The third question we hoped to answer was; what are the consequences of treating fluke affected calves at weaning compared to treating them first in the early winter? We weighed cattle treated for fluke at weaning in March and April and compared them to untreated cattle. We did not find a significant weight difference.
We held a meeting in Oberon last week to present these results to the owners who co-operated in the trial and to other interested local cattle producers. We mentioned that these results, especially those showing no triclabendazole resistance, are most encouraging.
However, I am reluctant to draw too many conclusions from a trial conducted in only one year and in the case of triclabendazole resistance, on only five properties.
I mentioned to the attendees at the Oberon meeting that we would like to continue this study in 2013. We would like to screen more properties for fluke at calf weaning next autumn and if we find fluke, again test for triclabendazole resistance.
We would also like to re-examine the question of the value of treating calves at weaning compared to treating them in the early winter and we should take more of a look at fluke in sheep. So if you are a livestock producer in the eastern tablelands we hope to speak to you early next year to ask if you might participate in our investigations.