Meetings will tackle liver fluke

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Diagnoses of liver fluke have steadily increased over the past 10 years to reach record levels in sheep during 2012.

This has lead to a reduction in output, which won’t be fully felt until livestock are sold off the farm and cashflows are reduced.

There have been instances of farmers losing hundreds of sheep from fluke, raising the question of what is going wrong and farmers questioning the effectiveness of treatments.

SAC Consulting is running a series of meetings across the south-west of Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government Advisory Activity Programme, to provide farmers with practical information on reducing the incidence of fluke. Among them will be meetings on Tuesday, July 9, at Sandhead Bowling Club at 2pm and in Newton Stewart’s Crown Hotel at 7.30pm. Admission is free and refreshments will be provided.

Heather Stevenson, veterinary investigation officer based at the SAC Consulting Vet Lab in Dumfries, will be delivering the presentations along with colleagues from the Perth and Ayr vet labs, and has put together the following brief guidelines which farmers should follow to reduce fluke incidence.

Treat stock, particularly sheep, in late spring/early summer to kill any adult fluke present in their livers.

Find out if triclabendazole works on your farm. If so, it is still the most effective treatment to use in autumn.

Keep an eye on fluke forecasts and rainfall figures for your area.

Treat with an appropriate product at the right time of year.

Think about when you sell lambs to avoid having to treat and to reduce overall stocking density.

Investigate sudden deaths and problems with ill thrift both before and after treatment for fluke.

Work out which areas are highest risk for fluke.

Most fluke losses are a consequence of infection in autumn and early winter.

Quarantine and treat purchased animals, especially if sourced from high rainfall areas.

The meetings will cover these topics in more detail and, due to the increased level of resistance to flukicides, will focus on using other methods of prevention such as grazing management to reduce the risk of fluke affecting flocks.

Alison Clark, local area consultant, said: “This series of meetings comes at an important time for livestock farmers, who are counting the costs of fluke on their farms from the wet weather in 2012. It is important that the recent drier weather doesn’t make people complacent. By taking action now to prevent a build-up of fluke, hopefully they can reduce the incidence in 2013 and increase performance and output.”

To book a place at a meeting, call SAC Stranraer on 01776 702649.