Fasciola hepatica seroprevalence in Northern German dairy herds and associations with milk production parameters and milk ketone bodies
Infections with the liver fluke Fasciola hepatica remain a serious problem in dairy herds causing significant production losses. In sheep, a strong relationship between F. hepatica infections and an increase in serum ketone bodies due to reduced feed intake and liver damage was demonstrated. We hypothesized that F. hepatica infections might contribute to an increase in milk ketone bodies in dairy herds. Thus, the objective of the study was to estimate the association between F. hepatica bulk tank milk (BTM) antibodies and milk production parameters (milk yield, milk protein, fat yield), somatic cell count (SCC) and the milk ketone bodies ß-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetone, inferred from Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectrometry, via linear mixed model analysis. A further aim was to follow up the F. hepatica seroprevalence in dairy herds in the northern German region East Frisia. We collected BTM samples between October and December from 1022 herds in 2017 and 1318 herds in 2018. Overall, 33.1 % of the herds tested positive in 2017 and 37.0 % in 2018, showing decreased F. hepatica seroprevalences compared to prior seroprevalence studies in the same region in 2010, 2008 and 2006 (> 45 % positive herds). We estimated a significant negative association (P < 0.001) between herd F. hepatica infection category and average milk yield with a loss of -1.62 kg per cow per day in strongly infected herds compared to BTM ELISA negative herds. Moreover, F. hepatica infection category had a significant effect on herd average milk protein and fat yield (P < 0.001), showing a decrease of 0.06 kg for both parameters from BTM ELISA negative herds to strongly infected herds. No significant association with milk SCC was found (P = 0.664). Regarding ketone bodies, we estimated significant higher average BHB values in strongly infected herds compared to the other three infection categories in the model analysis (P = 0.002). The association between F. hepatica infection category and acetone values was not significant (P = 0.079). Besides primary ketosis, fasciolosis should be considered as differential diagnosis in dairy herds with increased BHB values.