Liver Flukes No Fluke in Beef Cattle

Previously an issue only cattle producers in the wet regions of the Gulf and Pacific Coasts had to deal with, liver flukes have become a worsening problem for beef herds across the country. Dr. Jody Wade, professional services veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim, provides tips to protect your herd from these costly parasites.

“Well, the biggest problem with liver flukes and comparing them to other parasites is a lot of our conventional dewormers that we use on a daily basis is not effective against the flukes. So, if we’ve got flukes in that particular operation, then we have to kind of change our protocols on what we are going to deworm those animals with try to make sure we are going to get those flukes before they can cause any damage.” 

Despite the liver flukes dependence on a wet environment, Wade says producers still have to worry about them during droughts.

“There was a lot of confusion on that a few years back and what we have found out over the years is the flukes are kind of like cattle, they migrate to water. So, if we’ve got any water sources around there, like ponds are anything else, even in drought areas, the flukes and the snails which is the intermediate host, will stage themselves around those we areas so they can survive, and they’re pretty good at it.” 

Infected cattle rarely show obvious signs, but an infestation can cause reduced conception rates, lowered feed efficiency and slowed growth rates.

“We’ve starting doing some fluke monitoring across the country and the parasitologists have a test now that’s called the fluke finder, and what we do is we submit some fecals on certain cattle and try to see if we have any of those fluke eggs there. The trouble is they hang out most of the time in the gal bladder, and it’s not emptying all the time. So, if that gal bladder is not emptying at the time we are taking our samples, then its kind of hard to find those eggs. But, if that gal bladder is emptying at the time, then usually we can find fluke eggs in that sample.” 

Wade explains how producers can treat liver flukes effectively.

“Well, about the only way we can treat them right now is with some of these combination products that has clorsulon in the product with it. An example would be something like an ivermectin plus product, and what that is, is basically a macrocyclic lactone with clorsulon, which is effective against certain stages of the fluke. The problem is, is the clorsulon will only get the adult stages of that fluke, so we don’t have anything out there that’s really, really, good against the immature stages, the juvenile stages and the juvenile stages can cause quite a bit of damage, as well. So, we have to stay on top of it pretty good with management to make sure that we can try to manage our way through some of those juvenile stages, and if we find flukes there then we can hit him with the core salon products to try to knock those adult stages out.” 

Wade adds it’s important to discuss your strategic deworming program with your herd veterinarian.