Liver fluke is a type of parasite which can infect livestock and cause health problems, resulting in reduced growth rates and even death. We closely monitor liver fluke levels in the livestock we source, and discovered liver fluke is a consistent problem for farmers all year round. It is difficult to predict the likely occurrence in a herd, as risk factors vary year to year, farm to farm and field to field. In a study by ADAS, liver fluke infection was found to increase GHG emissions by 10% compared with healthy cattle. Control of liver fluke was also identified as one of the key opportunities for GHG abatement in UK cattle.
Working with a UK retail customer, this project aims to build on the animal performance feedback report which we routinely provide to farmers, to develop a plan to support beef producers who have prevalent liver fluke issues.
The project began in Autumn 2021 with a 3-year historic data analysis of our supply base, from which we identified farmers with the largest liver fluke problem. 267 beef farmers were then grouped by production system and benchmarked according to their scope for improvement. Participating farmers completed a questionnaire on their liver fluke control strategies, including prevention, monitoring and treatment.
By combining animal performance feedback from our processing sites with farm data on live fluke control practices, an evidence-based support strategy was implemented to reduce the occurrence of liver fluke, using combined methods of education, forecasting, innovation, and continuous data monitoring.
Analysis of the project findings will take place in Autumn 2022, with a view to rolling out the farmer support plan across the remaining supply base.