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Liver flukes are a growing problem in cattle.

Flukes are no longer associated with warm, wet regions only

Liver flukes, parasites once thought to be limited to specific geographies, are proving to be a much more widespread and serious problem in cattle. According to the 1999 National Market Cow and Bull Beef Quality Audit, approximately 27% of condemned beef livers are attributable to liver fluke damage, and universities have reported fluke-infected cattle in previously uninfected areas. Additionally, research more closely links liver flukes with reproduction problems in cattle. Tests in Spain showed puberty was delayed by 39 days in the infected heifers, even though there was no difference in weight between the infected and uninfected heifers.

Historically, fluke-infected cattle have been associated with warm, wet regions and thought to be limited to areas such as the Southeast or Pacific Northwest. However, university reports indicate fluke-infected cattle can be found across a much wider portion of the country.

While collecting beef quality data, researchers from the University of Nebraska found liver flukes in cattle from 17 Nebraska counties which had no previous history of flukes.

In Kansas, a survey found that 84.8% of 1,687 pens of cattle evaluated at slaughter had some infected cattle.

Cattle owners can no longer assume that because they are not located in an endemic area, their animals are not at risk for liver fluke infection.

"Cattle brought in from unknown areas may pose a threat because, if infected, they can spread liver fluke eggs in their feces when the conditions are right for both flukes and their intermediate host. This intermediate host is the lymnaeid snail, found throughout the United States, Fluke transmission occurs in warm, wet conditions such as the banks of ditches and streams, edges of ponds and in puddles," says Jay Brown, D.V.M., director of large animal veterinary professional services of Merial.

Infection of the intermediate host occurs when the fluke eggs hatch and penetrate the snail's skin. The flukes undergo several stages of development and then migrate back out into a wet environment where they attach to vegetation and are ingested. Conditions favorable to fluke transmission vary with temperature and precipitation.

Liver flukes can also damage the diaphragm, which is sold as skirt steak or fajita meat.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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