Caring for Livestock
Purchased hay delivered to drought-stricken areas could carry liver flukes according to a report from Dr. James Hawkins, veterinary professional services associate director for Merial, a world-leading animal health company.
Hawkins says, “It’s possible to move liver flukes in hay that is taken from an area known to have flukes. Under ideal conditions, liver fluke cysts can survive on hay for a period of several months.”
Liver fluke infections affect producers by reducing weaning weights, pregnancy rates and rate of gain. In some cases, fluke infection can even cause death.
With continuing drought conditions in the West and Southeast, Hawkins and Navarre say liver flukes will have more opportunities to spread by hay and through infected cattle being sold and distributed throughout the country.
Dr. Christine Navarre, Louisiana State University Extension veterinarian, also says producers buying hay from out of state may need to take extra precautions when it comes to parasite control.
Dr. Navarre cautions that if liver flukes are introduced to new areas through hay or purchased cattle, producers may face even greater losses if proper precautions aren’t taken.
“When liver fluke-infected cattle are combined with cattle naive to the parasite, the naive cattle are more likely to develop clinical disease. And that means greater production losses,” says Navarre.
Liver flukes or other internal parasite loads can further undermine cattle that are already nutritionally compromised due to drought. These, according to Dr. Navarre include: Ostertagia ostertagi, the brown stomach worm, which are capable of surviving drought conditions.
Dr. Hawkins says producers should continue to treat cattle for parasites during and after drought. Plus, he says, producers purchasing hay or cattle from liver fluke-endemic regions should be sure to include liver fluke control as part of a strategic parasite control program.
Producers are urged to read product labels carefully or contact their local veterinarian to learn more about liver fluke treatment options.