Liver fluke infection in cattle

Liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) is a leaf-shaped parasite which lives in the liver and bile ducts of infected cattle. Sheep, rabbits, deer and horses can also host the parasite.

The liver fluke life cycle involves a free-living stage which depends on the presence of an intermediate host, a mud snail. The seasonal nature of liver fluke infection results from infective larvae being shed by snails onto pasture primarily during late summer and early autumn. Cattle grazing over the autumn are at risk of ingesting larvae over a prolonged period and developing chronic disease which becomes evident in late winter and early spring.

With the effects of infection on growth rate and milk yield estimated to cost the UK cattle industry up to £40.4 million annually, effective and sustainable parasite control within herds is essential. A multidisciplined approach involving strategic flukicide product choice to reduce pasture contamination and drug resistance, alongside pasture management to restrict cattle access to snail habitats and quarantine of new stock with unknown infection status is recommended.

Adult liver fluke next to a five pence piece
Adult liver fluke can be larger than a 5 pence piece

    Cows Resources

  1. Control of liver and rumen fluke in cattle (COWS Guide, September 2023)
  2. Responsible use and disposal of parasite treatments (COWS, December 2022)
  3. Liver fluke: A guide to test-based control (COWS & SCOPS, December 2022)
  4. Integrated parasite control on cattle farms (COWS Guide, June 2020)
  5. Closing the knowledge gap on rumen fluke (COWS Article, Sept 2017)
  6. COWS guide to managing liver fluke in bought-in cattle (COWS leaflet)

    External Resources

  1. Joint Statement from NOAH and the VMD on the use of flukicides in dairy cattle (November 2020)
  2. Liver fluke an overview for practitioners (Scientific paper by Professor Diana Williams, University of Liverpool)