Fasciolosis caused by Fasciola hepatica is generally a subclinical infection of dairy cows and can result in marked economic losses on Irish dairy farms. This study investigated the exposure to F. hepatica in 237 dairy cow herds, using an in-house antibody-detection ELISA applied to bulk tank milk (BTM) samples collected in the autumn of 2012. A total of 364 BTM samples were collected from 237 different herds, with 127 farmers submitting BTM samples in two consecutive months. Analysis of the BTM samples indicated that 67 per cent (n= 159) of the dairy herds had been exposed to F. hepatica. Rainfall, temperature and soil types were significantly different between the exposed and non-exposed herds (P<0.05), highlighting the role of these variables to the exposure to F. hepatica. Among the 127 herds that provided two monthly milk samples, 83 herds were exposed to F. hepatica and 82 increased their F. hepatica antibody levels at the later sampling time (P<0.01).The findings of this study confirm the high prevalence of F. hepatica antibodies in Irish dairy herds and show the rise in antibody levels during autumn. This study is the first step towards assessing the spatiotemporal pattern of fasciolosis in dairy herds in Ireland.
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