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High levels of liver fluke this spring mean farmers should consider clostridial vaccination and control to avoid potentially serious livestock losses. “Farmers have recently been warned... Cattle at higher risk of liver fluke problems

High levels of liver fluke this spring mean farmers should consider clostridial vaccination and control to avoid potentially serious livestock losses.

“Farmers have recently been warned over a later than normal liver fluke threat in 2024 following unusual weather patterns during 2023,” says Kat Baxter-Smith, veterinary adviser with MSD Animal Health.

Cattle livers are therefore in danger of being rejected because of fluke, adds Dr Baxter-Smith. In some cases, this liver damage could also allow clostridial bacteria to gain a foothold with rapid death often the result.

“Consequently, associated black disease is emerging as a significant and potentially catastrophic issue.

The tissue damage caused by flukes migrating through the liver provides an ideal breeding ground for clostridia bacteria.”


Clostridial toxins kill quickly, and these diseases present few clinical signs before death. As a result, Dr Baxter-Smith says more cattle should be vaccinated with a broad spectrum clostridial disease vaccine such as Bravoxin Suspension.

The rise in liver fluke infections and associated black disease is not the only reason broad-spectrum clostridial vaccination has become more popular. Clostridial diseases are responsible for a huge number of costly cattle and sheep losses.”

Sudden death

As well as blackleg, additional clostridial bacteria have also been identified as causes of sudden death on UK cattle farms – so it makes sense to broaden cover, says Dr Baxter-Smith.

“Clostridial bacteria take the lives of cattle and sheep on a regular basis and are the cause of a significant proportion of the sudden livestock deaths in the UK. These bacteria share the same environment as livestock and are ever-present.

Soil and pasture

“They exist in soil, on pasture, within buildings and even in the tissues and intestines of cattle and sheep. Consequently, improved farm biosecurity measures will be of no benefit in controlling this group of diseases.

“We now advise beef and dairy farmers to take a broader-spectrum vaccination approach to ensure adequate protection – not only for cows, but also for their calves.”

Soil leaching threatens animal health post-turnout

Poor forage quality due to soil mineral leaching could compromise animal health post-turnout this spring.

Relentless heavy rain during recent months has seen micronutrients such as iodine leached from soils – prompting reminders to test grassland soils to see if vital minerals have been lost.

The National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) says iodine is essential as a constituent of the thyroid hormones, in particular T3 and T4.

Some 80% of the iodine in the body is found in the thyroid gland. An iodine deficiency is linked to calves being stillborn, says Emily Hall, of nutrition specialists Nettex.”

Supplementing diets

“Iodine deficiencies have also been implicated in poor growth rates, poor milk production and retained placenta.”

Farmers are being encouraged to test soils and return minerals by adapting nutrient management, says Ms Hall.

But this is a long-term strategy and producers are being advised to act sooner by supplementing livestock diets.

A high-iodine bolus such as EnduraBol will compensate for deficiencies in this key mineral, as well as vitamins A, D and E, and any identified shortfalls in copper, cobalt, selenium, manganese, and zinc.

“We suggest farmers act now. A bolus is a cost-effective and easy way to mitigate nutrient deficiencies when soil and the forage quality has been compromised.”