There is no room for complacency this autumn warn experts in the SCOPS and COWS groups. Sheep and cattle farmers must not assume that the dry summer has killed all the liver fluke and snails off!
As if we didn’t already know, recent reports confirm that 2018 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 that this applies to all farms or even in all areas on a farm. Indeed, early diagnostic reports from labs and abattoir feedback in some areas suggest we must be careful. In a dry year, the infective stages of liver fluke will be concentrated around permanently wet patches such as drinking points where there is moisture for snails, which of course, is where animals congregate too!
When we get a dry year, it is even more important that each farm does its own risk assessment and carries out monitoring and testing to avoid getting caught out. There will be huge variation between regions and farms. Tools available include specific blood tests, copro (dung) antigen tests and Feacal Egg Detection Tests. Both SCOPS and COWS websites have details on when it is best to use these tests and your Vet can advise you on how to use them most effectively on your farm.
Taking action NOW and using these tools will avoid losses due to fluke in high risk situations. Remember that on many farms where animals would normally be routinely treated, testing could help to avoid unnecessary treatments of animals that do not harbour live fluke. This saves money and time and helps us protect the few medicines we have available to combat this parasite.
Watch out for regular updates from SCOPS and COWS as the Autumn and Winter progresses