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 autumn and winter progresses.
Speaking on behalf of the Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) Group, Lesley Stubbings 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 because it is winter the threat from worms has gone away.
“It is vital to keep a careful check on individual farms. We have been advising against treating without having evidence of the need so far this winter, but we know many farmers have treated anyway because they are nervous of acute liver fluke disease.
“These farmers must remember this will not protect them should the challenge increase in the next few weeks. Flukicides have no residual effect, so their animals are at the same risk as those on farms which have not treated yet should things change.”
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 adviser on product choice