Liver fluke - act now to minimise losses.

The number of thin ewes about has prompted SCOPS to urge farmers to take immediate action. Peter Baber, sheep farmer and SCOPS chairman, says: “While there are a number of reasons why ewes may be thin, a liver fluke burden is still a major risk factor. The challenge from high levels of liver fluke on pasture continued throughout the first two months of 2013 and many farmers seem unaware that if sheep are put back on high risk pastures they will need to be re-treated with a flukicide five to six weeks later to avoid losses. This means treatments are required more frequently than farmers are used to and SCOPS suspects that there is also confusion because some products used are persistent against worms, but not against liver fluke.”


Advice from SCOPS:-

·        Check ewe body condition and identify thin ewes NOW. Look for symptoms such as bottle jaw.

·       Segregate thin ewes and increase feed levels according to a forage analysis. Even though treatment may have removed the parasites, some ewes will have badly damaged livers and will need additional inputs to get them through lambing.

·       Follow up any sheep going direct to an abattoir. Ask for feedback and if livers are rejected, find out why.

·       Investigate losses and other possible causes of thin ewes – ask your vet to carry out post mortem examinations on deaths and discuss actions to minimise losses in the run up to lambing.

·       Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up to date; Black Disease is a major risk where livers have been damaged by fluke.


SCOPS also says farmers need to start planning ahead now to minimise the impact of liver fluke next season:-

·        Reduce the amount of pasture contamination this spring by using a treatment that kills any adult liver fluke that have survived in the sheep. Consult your vet or adviser to make sure you choose the right product.

·       Implement management controls where possible. These include identifying the high risk areas on the farm and putting measures in place that will avoid them. Practical steps include fencing off wet areas and attending to leaking troughs, pipes and drainage.

·       Plan to test that your flukicide is working. On high risk farms where triclabendazole (TCBZ) has been heavily relied on it is vital to check that it is still working effectively. While there is some resistance to this treatment it remains an important weapon against immature fluke and SCOPS is concerned that many people have mistaken re-infection this winter with treatment failure.


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