Liver Abscess

General description
  • Liver abscess is a disease marked by inflammation and necrosis of the liver.
  • Lesions that occur on the liver are pale yellow, often spherical with necrosis of the liver cells and the surrounding area which leads to inflammation of the liver.
  • Abscesses are found in all ages and breeds of cattle and under all types of management, but most cases are found in beef cattle from feedlots due to a high grain content diet.
  • Feedlot cattle with abscessed livers have reduced feed conversion efficiency, and those with severely abscessed livers gain 5–15% less per day than cattle without abscesses, reducing production rate and resulting carcases weight.
  • A recent study found 4.4% of feedlot cattle were identified with liver abscess at processing.
  • Livers with more than 20% of the organ affected are classified as severely affected. These animals have markedly poorer performance including lower carcase weight, dressing percentate, rib fat and carcase value. Affected livers are condemned.
  • Fusobacterium necrophorum is an anaerobic bacterium; it is the primary agent of the disease.
  • The disease is initiated by damage to the rumen outer layer, allowing bacteria that is normally contained in rumen fluid to enter the blood steam.
  • Acidosis is often the first step in creating an entrance point for bacteria in the rumen. It does this by damaging the lining of the rumen.
Clinical signs
  • No obvious clinical signs on farm or in feedlot. However, maybe suspected due to reduced production efficiency.
  • Disease is found at slaughter when the whole liver is condemned due to abscess in the liver.
  • Difficult to diagnose liver abscess in live cattle.
  • Diagnosis is predominately made at meat inspection.
  • Preventative measures are often undertaken rather than treatment.
  • Treatment usually involves antibiotics but should only be used in consultation with your veterinarian.
  • Change of diet is key to preventing the acidosis that leads to liver abscesses occurring. An increase in fibre and a decrease in the amount of carbohydrate-rich grain provided should minimise of the incidence of liver abscesses in cattle.
  • Consult with your cattle nutritionist and veterinarian about nutritional management and other preventative measures.
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