Recent research has shown that infective liver fluke cysts can survive in spoiled silage.
Bethan John, a PhD student funded by the BBSRC, University of Liverpool and AHDB, conducted the study, which aimed to identify the risk of liver fluke infection from feeding grass silage to livestock.
Liver fluke cysts are shed onto pasture from infected mud snails and, given the right conditions, can survive for many months. This means silage fields could be at risk of contamination. Before this work was carried out, the survival of infective liver fluke cysts during ensiling was largely unknown.
Findings have shown that fluke cysts in silages that followed a strict anaerobic fermentation process were killed after 2 weeks in storage, so if these silages were fed out to livestock, there would be no risk of infection. In comparison, fluke cysts in silages that experienced aerobic spoilage could survive for up to 10 weeks. These findings highlight the importance of basic forage management practices, such as ensuring good consolidation and anaerobic sealing.
For more information and top tips for silage-making this season, look out for the podcast, ‘Can liver fluke survive in silage’.