Beef producers seek hydatid disease advice

By Jamieson Salter

A survey of beef producers has highlighted the need for more awareness on hydatid disease, which comes from a parasite and can infect livestock, dogs and people.

Hydatid disease is caused by a small tapeworm that lives in the gut of dogs and their eggs are spread by faeces.

The research was conducted by Charles Sturt University PhD student Cara Wilson, through the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

“Cattle become infected by eating contaminated pasture, and people can become infected by handling infected dogs or their faeces,” Ms Wilson said.

“The infection in livestock causes fluid-filled cysts to form in organs, and contaminated beef product identified at slaughter is either downgraded to pet food or condemned for rendering to meat meal.”

The research examined the data from 1.2 million cattle slaughtered at an eastern Australian abattoir between 2010 and 2018.

“I found 33 per cent of cattle were infected with hydatid disease, costing this abattoir about $94 000 per year due to condemnation and downgrading of infected organs,” Ms Wilson said.

The survey of more than 60 Australian cattle producers showed they were not well informed about the disease.

“Almost all the respondents indicated they would take action if they knew their cattle were infected,” Ms Wilson said.

“But a lack of knowledge and information was one of the most common concerns among those taking part in the survey.

“More than three quarters of those who took part in the survey had heard of hydatid disease, and most knew how it was transmitted, but almost half did not know how to prevent transmission.”

Ms Wilson said the key was to prevent and treat adult tapeworm infection in the definitive host — dogs.

“People should treat their domestic dogs with an all-wormer containing praziquantel monthly and ensure they don’t feed dogs offal.”