Farmers must check body condition of ewes at fluke risk
SHEEP specialists are urging farmers to check ewe body condition and continue the fight against liver fluke as lambing approaches.
There have been widespread reports of thin ewes up and down the UK and confirmed cases of liver fluke disease have been increasing exponentially.
Nobody can afford to drop their guard, says sheep farmer and chairman of the organisation SCOPS (Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep), Peter Baber. "While there are a number of reasons why ewes may be thin, a liver fluke burden is still a major risk factor," he said.
The challenge from high levels of liver fluke on pasture continued throughout the first two months of 2013.
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Many farmers seem unaware that if sheep are put back on high risk pastures they will need to be re-treated with a flukicide five to six weeks later to avoid losses. This means treatments are required more frequently than farmers are used to.
SCOPS suspects there is confusion because some products used are persistent against worms, but not against liver fluke."
Farmers are also advised to
Check ewe body condition and identify thin ewes now.
Look for symptoms such as bottle jaw.
Segregate thin ewes and increase feed levels according to a forage analysis. Even though treatment may have removed the parasites, some ewes will have badly damaged livers and will need additional inputs to get them through lambing.
Follow up any sheep going direct to an abattoir.
Ask for feedback and if livers are rejected, find out why.
Investigate losses and other possible causes of thin ewes – ask a vet to carry out post mortem examinations on deaths and discuss actions to minimise losses in the run up to lambing.
Make sure clostridial vaccinations are up to date; Black Disease is a major risk where livers have been damaged by fluke.
SCOPS is made up of several expert organisations in the sheep world and they advise farmers to start planning ahead now against the liver fluke threat for next year.
Information can be found on the SCOPS website: www.scops.org.uk