15 March 2002

Liver fluke hits low risk areas

LIVER fluke is catching out producers in normally low risk areas this spring due to continuing warm and wet weather, says independent sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings.

"Even flocks in Herts and Beds have reported cases," she says. "This problem has been carried over from previous wet winters and some flocks were forced into grazing higher risk pastures because of foot-and-mouth restrictions."

Fluke can still linger in treated flocks when using a combined wormer drench at conventional wormer rates, warns Ms Stubbings. "Higher dose rates are normally required to control immature fluke worms in heavily infested flocks."

At this stage, any fluke problems will be chronic leading to a reduction in ewe performance. "Look out for ewes which are rapidly losing condition and, where suspected, ask your vet to confirm infection."

Many producers become aware of a fluke problem when sending lambs away for slaughter and being informed of liver damage. But this year some flockmasters have not sent lambs and may be unaware of infection.

If left untreated, Ms Stubbings believes the cycle of infection will continue in this years lamb crop. Adult ewes will also suffer because, unlike gutworms, they will not develop immunity against fluke. &#42