Do not get caught out by ‘low’ fluke risk this winter, farmers warned
The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group is urging sheep farmers not to get caught out by ‘low’ fluke risk this winter.
While liver fluke burdens on pasture have generally been lower than last season, experts are warning it is dangerous to assume this applies to all farms, all areas on a farm, or that levels will remain low as the autumn and winter progresses.
Speaking on behalf of the SCOPS group, Lesley Stubbing says: “Reports from around the UK generally suggest we have not yet seen a major challenge from liver fluke.
“But there are a few individual cases, so it is essential to keep monitoring. Worms remain a major issue on many sheep farms, including evidence of resistance, so we must keep testing and not assume that because it is winter the threat from worms has gone away.”
SCOPS top tips for sheep farmers
- Don’t get caught out by treating too early: Many sheep farmers treat for fluke too early in the autumn and assume this will provide sufficient cover for their flocks. This is unlikely to be the case. Monitoring is essential to determining the need and timing of further treatments.
- Worms can produce similar signs to liver fluke disease: This has caught some farmers out this autumn, including in ewes which can be affected by the Haemonchus contortus (or Barber’s Pole) worm.
- Investigate deaths: A post mortem is still the gold standard to establish whether fluke is present, so consider further action with deadstock.
- Monitor abattoir returns carefully: These are valuable reports regarding the presence of liver fluke.
- In lower risk situations, consider treating sheep with closantel or nitroxinil: This will take the pressure off triclabendazole, to which resistance is building. Seek advice from your vet or animal health advisor on product choice.