Liver fluke is causing havoc in many parts of the UK, according to sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings of the Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep.

Recent reports from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency show a tenfold increase in the number of cases of acute fasciolosis in the last quarter of 2012 compared with 2011 and a fourfold increase in the number of cases of chronic disease.

These data are supported by reports from vets, who are also diagnosing fasciolosis at post mortem examinations of sheep for their farming clients in a large number of cases.

With mild conditions still prevailing SCOPS is urging sheep farmers to remain on their guard during the start of this year. Only a spell of very cold weather (fluke metacercarieae are only killed by temperatures below minus 18 degrees centigrade for several days) will stem the tide and at the moment this is not being forecast.

Ms Stubbings says: “Sheep farmers must continue to monitor their flocks for signs of fluke infection and treat with an appropriate flukicide. If sheep have suffered any liver damage they will also need good quality feed to maintain body condition up to lambing.”

The National Animal Disease Information Service says the first sign of a fluke problem on a farm might be seen this month if poor scanning results are obtained. At this time of year, there is often a mixture of adult and immature fluke in the liver causing condition loss, dullness, anaemia, abdominal pain and sometimes death.

NADIS advice is that farms with a history of fluke should consider a winter (January) dose to remove adult and immature fluke. Sheep in high-risk areas may remain exposed to potentially risky pastures through the winter and consideration should be given to administering a repeat dose to these animals four to six weeks later.

Farms that have not had fluke in the past should consult their vet and put in place the monitoring/treatment regime that their individual farm circumstances require.

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