Beef, sheep and dairy farmers urged not to be complacent about fluke

Beef, dairy and sheep farmers are being urged to consider the continuing risk of liver fluke in their flocks and herds this autumn.

Experts from the Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep (Scops) and Control Of Worms Sustainably (Cows) groups are urging farmers not to assume the summer drought has killed the parasite and its vector, the mud snail.

Early lab reports and abattoir feedback indicate there is infection in some regions.

Localised infection

Speaking on behalf of Scops, sheep consultant Lesley Stubbings said: “This summer has been the hottest and driest on record in many parts of the UK. This means that, overall, the burden of liver fluke on pasture will be much lower than last season – but it is dangerous to assume this applies to all farms or even in all areas on a farm.”

Ms Stubbings advised that on farm in the dry weather, the infective stages of liver fluke will be concentrated around permanently wet patches, such as drinking points, where there is moisture for snails.

Professor Jacqui Matthews, specialist in veterinary parasitology, tweeted that there is no room for complacency.

On-farm testing

Experts are suggesting it is more important than ever to test at farm level to monitor fluke burden. As well as detecting disease, avoiding unnecessary treatment will help reduce the risk of anthelmintic resistance.

A spokesperson for Cows said: “Remember, on many farms where animals would normally be routinely treated, testing could help to avoid unnecessary treatments of animals that do not harbour liver fluke. This saves money and time and helps us protect the few medicines we have available to combat this parasite.”

Methods of possible testing include specific blood tests, copro (dung) antigen tests and faecal egg detection tests.

Further advice is available for sheep farmers on the detection and treatment options for liver fluke (PDF).

Cattle farmers can find more information on the Cows website.