Liver Fluke Disease in Sheep and Cattle


Summary written Dr Philip Skuce
Taken from Moredun Foundation Newsheet Volume 5 No. 4



  • Liver fluke disease (fasciolosis) appears to be on the increase in the UK, disease has been reported outside traditional high risk periods and in previously fluke-free areas.
  • The fluke has a complicated life-cycle, involving a mud snail as an intermediate host. Thus its prevalence and geographical distribution are markedly affected by climatic conditions, especially temperature and rainfall, in the current and previous year.
  • The majority of disease outbreaks in sheep and cattle are seen in early/mid-winter and are due to ingestion of infective cysts shed onto pasture in late summer through to early winter.
  • Unexpected disease in livestock in early spring can result from autumn/winter infection of snails and/or over-wintering of cysts on pasture.
  • The timing of fluke treatment is important and should be aimed at preventing disease arising from summer and winter snail infections.
  • As with any anthelmintic treatment, care should be taken to dose animals accurately, according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and using a product with activity against the stage of the life-cycle responsible for disease at that time.
  • Cattle can be a significant source of infection for sheep on mixed farms and should, therefore, be included in fluke control programmes on such premises.
  • It is also important to reduce the areas where the mud snails can live. This can be achieved by improved drainage where possible and, if practical, by fencing off wet grazing in autumn.
  • No single approach to fluke control is likely to succeed on its own. Consider drainage and grazing management, where possible, in combination with liver fluke forecasting and strategic flukicidal treatment of your livestock.
  • Liver fluke disease appears to be a changing picture – consult your local veterinary surgeon to plan a customized fluke control strategy tailored to the fluke situation on your specific farm.




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