Dairy Farmer Fear in Fight Against Fluke

NFU Scotland is urging veterinary medicine manufacturers and licensing authorities to ensure that key products (flukicides) needed to combat the growing threat of liver fluke in cattle remain available to dairy farmers.

To combat the growing incidence of fluke, dairy farmers traditionally treat cows when they are inbetween lactations (the dry period) and not producing milk.  If cows are treated during lactation, the milk is withheld from the food chain for a considerable period to avoid residues and comply with veterinary medicine withdrawl periods.  

However, a significant number of key flukicide products are being withdrawn from use on milking cows, regardless of whether they are lactating or in their dry period.

During the first half of 2012, the European Commission published a series of Implementing Regulations allowing for the establishment of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for milk in respect of the majority of flukicides. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate has already publicised this information to manufacturers and has encouraged them to perform the necessary milk residue depletion studies which would pave the way for these products to remain available for use in dairy cows during the dry period and in lactating animals.

NFUS is urging manufacturers to prioritise this work and get these products back available as soon as possible.
NFU Scotland President, and qualified vet, Nigel Miller said:
“Fluke is a growing animal health issue hitting an ever increasing area of Scotland. Any reduction in the options for control will create both production and welfare challenges for dairy farmers.

“With milking stock only open to therapy during their dry period, it is already challenging for farmers and their vets to develop an effective control strategy for fluke.  Removing the tools to control fluke from the dairy herd – even on a temporary basis – raises real concerns.

“Any restriction on product choice may force treatment at sub optimal times whilst no control will have immediate impacts on stock.  If the weather profile continues to favour fluke, then without flukicide intervention higher levels of infection will build on pastures raising risk during the forthcoming grazing season and could seriously impact on herds next winter.

“Authorities must work with manufacturers to minimise the impact of any drug withdrawal on dairy farmers by helping to facilitate any necessary new approvals.   We must also ensure that if a product is to be restricted to non-milking animals, it should remain available until agreed herd treatment programmes are completed.  At present, there appears to be a window to use existing stocks which is important for herds under threat of fluke.”

Notes to Editors

  • NFU Scotland has produced a guide for its members on changes to the permitted use of flukicide products in animals producing milk for human consumption
  • The European Commission has recently published a decision that will lead to changes across the EU to the labelling of veterinary medicines containing certain flukicides.  The advice confirms that products containing clorsulon, closantel, nitroxinil, triclabendazole and rafoxanide are not authorised for use in animals producing milk for human consumption, including during the dry period.  The referral outcome only legally covers products containing one of these compounds as the sole active ingredient so combination products are currently unaffected. Combination products will however, be being looked at with the intention of bringing them into line to avoid the obvious discrepancies.
  • This only applies to dairy animals producing milk and dairy products for human consumption. It does not apply to suckler/beef herds and sheep other than dairy animals.
  • The use of products containing one of the above compounds as the sole active substance can now only be used in limited circumstances in dairy heifers, ewes or goats prior to the first calving, lambing or kidding. Use will no longer be authorised in dairy animals beyond the first calving/lambing/kidding even during the dry period.
  • Any product already in the market place can remain there and be used according the warning on the label. The VMD will be recommending to vets that they take account of the modified warnings to avoid the detection of residues in the milk. Producers who are part of a farm assurance scheme may wish to check with their scheme provider if they will be requiring producers to abide by the modified warnings.
  • Marketing Authorisation Holders (MAHs) have been given a 6 month timeline in which to implement revised labelling. Product produced after this 6-month time frame must carry the revised labelling.  They can however implement the new labelling sooner than this and so keepers are advised to pay attention to the warning labels on each bottle from now on and to make sure they abide by the warnings on each bottle


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 13/12

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