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Farmers urged to be on high alert for blowfly strike

It is a well-known fact there is always an elevated risk of blowfly strike in sheep throughout the summer months, however the whole of the UK is currently in a state of high or severe risk.

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Maggots cause skin and muscle liquefaction.
Maggots cause skin and muscle liquefaction.

Dr Richard Wall, professor at the University of Bristol says: “The onset of rain over the second half of July and into August is now likely to elevate the risk of strike rapidly, particularly if this rain is heavy and persistent. If however, the rain is intermittent and dry weather returns, this will help to keep the strike risk relatively moderate in most regions.”

 

In the UK the primary cause of fly strike is the green bottle fly, Lucilia. The female fly seeks decomposing matter to lay its eggs and are attracted by anything with a pungent odour, for example, carcasses, dirty back ends, foot rot lesions and open wounds.

 

The onset of strike can be extremely quick, the whole life cycle from egg to fly can take place in less than 10 days. Eggs hatch into the first stage of larvae within 12 hours of laying and become mature maggots within three to 10 days depending on temperature and humidity.

A sign of severe fly-strike is discoloration and loss of fleece
A sign of severe fly-strike is discoloration and loss of fleece

Signs of blowfly strike

  • Nibbling the flank or tail-head
  • General irritation and discomfort
  • Increased tail-swishing
  • Rubbing
  • Increased discomfort in lame animals
  • Discoloured or damp fleece and loss of fleece
  • Separation from the flock
  • Sick animals
  • Death

Maggots cause skin and muscle liquefaction and this attracts secondary flies like bluebottles. The decomposing flesh releases toxins which, along with ammonia secreted by the maggots is absorbed into the animal’s blood stream which causes systemic illness, and in some cases, death.

 

Fiona Hutchings, Technical vet at Elanco is urging farmers to be proactive and embrace preventative treatments rather than risking a negative impact on productivity and profit.

Prevention

  • Reduce the worm burden – Correct management of gut worms in sheep can help to drastically decrease the occurrence of faecal contamination of wool around the back-end of the sheep.
  • Dagging at-risk animals – Sheep which are seen to be dirty should be clipped to remove dirty wool and prevent further contamination. Shearing should also be timely to avoid strike occurring.
  • Dipping – Application of a preventative product should be discussed with a vet.
  • Prompt disposal of deadstock.
  • Decrease the fly burden - Using fly traps around the farm can decrease the fly burden by 80 per cent in a season. Also consider grazing more open pasture where flies may not be as prevalent.

Keep up to date with the latest news on fly-strike with NADIS' 'Blowfly Alert'

 

 

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