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Liver fluke on the NSW Central Tablelands

Bruce Watt
Regional Veterinarian
Central Tablelands Local Land Services

This is a summary of an article written for the October edition of wormboss, a resource on sheep internal parasites funded by Meat & Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and the Sheep CRC.  The wormboss site provides a wealth of information on worms in sheep including decision guides and technical information.

The complete version of this article can be found by opening this link. Sister sites provide assistance for lice control (liceboss) and fly control (flyboss). I recommend these sites to you.

Technical assistance for this article was also provided by Stephen Love (DPI NSW) and Rob Woodgate (CSU).

Liver fluke infestations (fascioliasis) are common in sheep, cattle and goats in the NSW Central Tablelands. We know from on-farm surveys and abattoir surveillance that at least 80% of Central Tablelands properties have fluke, especially those to the east. Despite this high prevalence, we rarely see clinical liver fluke disease such as that illustrated in the photographs below.

It seems that current fluke programs are reasonably effective at controlling clinical disease, which can range from ill thrift, bottle jaw, anaemia and jaundice through to sudden deaths. Generally, stock are treated in the important April–May (or sometimes later in the winter) window with triclabendazole-based drenches. Less often, stock are treated again in August–September and sometimes in December as well.

However, some questions arise. Despite the rarity of clinical fluke disease, tablelands producers could be sustaining subclinical (undetected) production losses. This is not always easy to determine, but given that abattoirs report a high proportion of livers from sheep originating from the tablelands have evidence of fluke infestation, it is likely that sub-clinical losses are occurring.

So, these are the relevant questions:

  • Do you have liver fluke?
  • If so, is your current program effective?
  • Are the flukicides you use, including triclabendazole, effective?

Testing for liver fluke

Clearly, livestock producers in the Central Tablelands and other 'flukey' areas—need to monitor for fluke. Most of your neighbors probably have liver fluke; do you?

How do you test for liver fluke?

There are three tests available:

  • The liver fluke egg count.
  • The liver fluke antibody ELISA.
  • The fluke faecal antigen test.
Post-mortem examination of livers of a number of animals for damage, including scarring, and thickened bile ducts, which may also contain adult flukes.
The Wormboss Drenches page allows you to search for products, including those effective against liver fluke.

More information

Bruce Watt, Regional Veterinarian

Central Tablelands Local Land Services

Phone: 6333 2303

Liverfluke on the NSW Central Tablelands (PDF 162KB)