Farmers have been warned against complacency about blowfly strike, as two new cases have been reported in West Sussex.
Elanco Animal Health is urging farmers to ‘strike first’ and use products which prevent against blowfly strike, rather than risk being caught out.
New findings from an Elanco survey found 94 per cent of sheep farmers have been caught out by the parasite in the past.
The timing and severity of blowfly strike is strongly influenced by the weather, which can often make the timing of treatment challenging for many flock managers. The Met Office believes this winter may have been the warmest ever recorded, prompting fears these favourable conditions will result in a more abundant blowfly population.
Fiona Anderson, technical consultant manager at Elanco Animal Health, says there is ‘no sense’ in taking any risks with blowfly.
“It’s crucial we do not get complacent when it comes to blowfly – the costs of inaction can be devastating. It’s an extremely distressing disease to see in sheep, and obviously for the sheep themselves, so there’s no sense in taking the risk. Farmers should take control of the situation, before blowfly strikes their flock, by using preventative products with full fleece protection. Another benefit of using a preventative product early in the season is that killing flies from the first wave of the insects reduces the total number of flies for the rest of the season.”
Ms Anderson said simply monitoring the signs associated with blowfly is a risky strategy: “Waiting for clear signs of the blowfly season before acting is a gamble. Farmers are extremely busy and blowfly strike can establish very quickly, so it would be very easy to miss an affected sheep.”
The consequences of blowfly strike can be devastating, leading to production losses and welfare problems.
David Sellar, a Gloucestershire farmer, agrees simply keeping an eye on the flock is a risk not worth taking.
“I don’t think there is anyone in any part of the country who hasn’t been affected by blowfly strike in one form or another. You can keep checking and checking for strike, but ultimately you will find a case and have to spend the money on treatment anyway, so why not start off by covering the flock early?”
Ms Anderson says blowfly strike is easy to prevent using an insect growth regulator (IGR): “IGRs stop blowfly larvae developing into the harmful second and third stages which cause flystrike and stock damage. Using an IGR directly off shears saves time by avoiding the need to re-gather sheep and offering a longer period of protection.”