3 September 1999

Fluke risks high?

STOCK may be at risk from liver fluke and lungworm this autumn, following warm, wet summer weather, warn experts.

While wet early summer weather increased liver fluke risks for cattle and sheep, most areas had a dry July, reducing fluke habitats, says parasitologist Gordon Graham.

He predicts the risk of liver fluke in sheep and cattle as average to above average in areas remaining wetter in July, such as the Scottish Borders. Although some farms will have to dose stock for fluke, incidence is unlikely to be as high as last year even if September is wet, he adds.

Independent vet consultant Tony Andrews says that animals suffering fluke will lose condition and have diarrhoea. "Most producers believe this is worms, particularly in young animals, but stock dont respond to treatments."

Some stock may have picked up fluke this summer and may show evidence of infection at times of stress such as when calving or when suffering salmonella infection, he warns.

While no prevention, such as vaccination, is available, control is possible. Some treatments kill both immature and adult fluke, while others only kill adult fluke and so stock may require more than one treatment, he adds.

Producers should also consider lungworm treatment as young cattle are housed: Recent wet weather is likely to see an increase in herd breakdowns, warns Dr Andrews.

When unsure whether unvaccinated animals have built up lungworm immunity or not, consider worming them at housing. Most wormers can be used in stock showing no signs of lungworm at housing, but will prevent them suffering husk during winter or next summer at pasture.

"Blood tests can also be done when animals are housed to check whether animals have built up immunity to lungworm."