Scots Urged to Address Soaring Cost of Fluke

Liver fluke is stripping value out of Scottish livestock sector
Scottish livestock farmers are being urged to tackle an alarming increase in liver fluke incidence in the nation’s cattle and sheep.

Not only does the disease significantly reduce the performance of livestock, at a huge cost to farmers, but at abattoirs a growing numbers of livers from cattle and sheep are now being rejected from the food chain because of fluke damage.  That is removing value from our livestock sector.

NFU Scotland met with FSA Scotland today (Wednesday, 24 April) with liver fluke one of the issues on the agenda.  The Union believes that, in conjunction with their vet, there is the opportunity for livestock producers to seriously tackle the threat of fluke this spring.

Speaking after the FSA Scotland meeting, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:

“Liver fluke is causing a huge degree of loss to Scotland’s livestock sector – both at abattoirs and on farm – and is posing a massive welfare and production challenge for our farmers.  It is in everyone’s interests that we tackle the issue of fluke head on.”

“Veterinary reports indicate that liver fluke has devastated ewe health in some flocks over the past few months while in cattle, even low levels of infection can pull down performance, slow growth rates and increase days to slaughter.

“This spring presents a window of opportunity for producers, in conjunction with their vets, to tackle the problem on farm.  Before turnout or moving stock to summer pasture, appropriate treatment can reduce egg production and lower the risk over the coming grazing season.

“There are a range of products effective against adult fluke.  If you believe your herd or flock is at risk then it would be worth discussing the matter with your vet to develop an effective strategy to reduce the threat from fluke.

“Such an approach will also benefit our red meat sector.  At a recent industry conference, Scottish abattoir operators all expressed concern at the growing cost involved in condemning livers from the food chain because of fluke with one abattoir reporting that it was struggling to fill customer demand for clean livers because of the disease.  That is a worry for all parts of the chain.” 

Highlighting the scale of the problem, Charles Milne, Director of the FSA in Scotland said:

“The FSA is responsible for official meat inspection in abattoirs across the UK. As a matter of routine, data for liver rejection because of liver fluke is recorded.

 “It is clear from the figures that liver rejection in sheep and cattle due to liver fluke is increasing across the UK.  Figures for the first quarter of this year demonstrate that Scotland continues to have the highest incidence of liver fluke in the UK with clear patterns in pathology presented at post mortem inspection. In particular, the first quarter returns have shown a significant spike in cases.” 

Notes to Editors

  • Detection in the livers of cattle, as a percentage of total abattoir throughputs, illustrates a prevalence of 17.24% for the first quarter of this year compared to 10.96 % for all of 2012. In abattoirs, sheep livers are showing a similar trend with prevalence of 36.51% in the first quarter of 2013, compared with 29.12% in 2012.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 57/13

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