Farmers are being urged to use a new online tool to keep abreast of the regions affected by fly strike and report any problems on their own farms.
The new website – www.flystrikealert.co.uk – is a simple map of the UK that shows when and where blowfly strike has occurred. The information is generated solely by farmers and so NSA says it is vital for all sheep producers to input their own experiences.
All information is anonymous, as users are asked to input the first four digits of their postcode, but this information is not published, nor are any farm names or exact locations revealed.
Phil Stocker, NSA chief executive, said: “If this new tool is used widely enough it will provide an excellent early warning service to help farmers decide when to treat sheep to protect them from fly strike. Prevention is always better than cure and with changing weather patterns disrupting age-old date-based predictions, we need a tool like this to help producers be more reactive.
Fly strike facts
- Fly strike is considered to be one of the five most important diseases affecting sheep farms.
- Despite responsible use of preventative treatments, an estimated 1% of the national flock is struck annually.
- Flies are active when the average minimum temperature gets above 8.5C. Egg-laying females are attracted by dung or urine so sheep with digestive upsets caused by fresh new grass or parasites can be vulnerable. The hatching larvae (maggots) like to shelter in the high humidity of sheep wool and begin to feed on the live sheep, which affects welfare, health and productivity.
- The insecticide treatments available are powerful and very effective, but should be used in a targeted manner to avoid fly larvae developing resistance and to limit any adverse environmental effects.
“If sheep keepers check the site regularly there will be less chance of them being caught out by early or unexpected cases, or running out of protection when it is still needed. I also urge farmers who have not had to treat for fly strike before to check the website, as our unpredictable weather means problems are arising in areas that previously escaped them.”
The website has been created by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) but is a UK-wide tool. It is fully supported by the NSA.
John Vipond, senior sheep specialist with SAC Consulting (part of SRUC), says: “If you compare this year’s weather so far to last year’s it makes a nonsense of any fixed-date prevention programmes. Conventional wisdom says the fly strike season is 16 weeks, but I know someone who had lambs struck in April and another who was caught out unexpectedly in November – that’s double the expected time.
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