LIVER fluke in cattle is on the increase, according to the Food Standards Agency.

In 2013 nearly one in four cattle – 24 per cent – sent for slaughter at abattoirs across Britain had their livers condemned as a result of fluke, up from 19 per cent in 2012.

In Scotland, the percentage rose to 32 per cent and to 27 per cent in Wales.

Lynda Maris, brand manager with Merial Animal Health, said liver fluke infection costs the beef industry money because it increases finishing times and feed costs.

Eblex estimates the parasite can cost cattle farmers as much as £87 per head.

She said: “It is also denying the producer and processor additional profit from the fifth quarter.

“The fact that nearly one in four cattle across Britain, and nearly one in three in Scotland are affected by fluke, will be hitting producers in their pockets at a time when they can ill afford it.”

Chris Mallon, chief executive of the National Beef Association, said fluke has spread into areas where it has not been seen before.

“However, these figures are a real wake-up call to the industry and everyone needs to consider strategies for prevention and treatment to reduce the impact of a disease which is costing the industry millions of pounds every year,” he said.

Lynda Maris said producers should consider treating their herds against fluke at this time of the year – eight to ten weeks after turnout .

She said: “Treating now will kill fluke and help to ensure that the herd can take full advantage of the cheapest source of feed, namely grass.

“In addition, a treatment at this time will reduce pasture contamination and the risk of infection later in the season.”

She said farmers could choose a straight fluke product such as Trodax, alongside an existing worm treatment.

Alternatively, a combination endectocide product, such as Ivomec Super, kills adult fluke and provides persistent protection against roundworms, and can be used to replace a wormer- only treatment at grass.