Eight farmers in Yorkshire and six in Cumbria met to discuss their experience with sheep health last year, their progress with the treatments App and findings from tests for the presence of liver fluke in their flocks.

No-one had seen any signs of liver fluke in lambs last summer and over the autumn. The dry year had reduced numbers.

Testing for liver fluke eggs

Farmers had been offered a free test for presence of fluke eggs in faecal samples in June and/ or August before doing routine fluke treatments in the autumn. Most samples had not had enough fluke eggs present in the August samples to warrant doing a second test to measure the efficacy of triclabendazole.

The end of January/ early February 2019 is a good time to check again for the presence of fluke, before routine treatments at scanning (especially if not treated for fluke since early December). The project can offer free tests for the presence of an antibody to fluke – which may be sooner and more reliable then looking for fluke eggs in the sample. By doing another sample from the same sheep 2 weeks after treatment, the test can be used to get an indication if treatment by triclabendazole has been effective (not fully accurate).

Post mortems

Those who could get feedback from their abattoirs had been ok so far. Three farmers had done their own post-mortem on sheep that had died, to look for evidence of fluke in the liver and bile-ducts. The Yorkshire farmers were very keen to learn more about this and arranged a workshop with one of the farm vets to show them how to do it.

Targeted treatments and the life stages of liver fluke

A proven way to reduce the incidence of liver fluke is to target dosing with different products at different times of year, to target the most likely life stages, and avoid over-use of triclabendazole when it is most likely to be only adult fluke in the sheep. Targeted treatments for adult fluke currently (usually late winter and spring) are likely to reduce the shedding of eggs onto pasture. One farmer had done this regularly (4 treatments a year) for a few years and noticed reduced incidence of fluke, and now only needed 3 treatments per year.

Farmers can reduce infection rates by grazing more susceptible animals in less risky areas. Treating according to the conditions may mean that treatment patterns need to change every year. Copies of the life-cycle of the liver fluke and its stages along with the latest version of the AHDB Beef and Lamb parasite Control Guide were distributed.

Phone application feedback

The use of the treatment App was discussed, and some farmers had recently updated the information on it. One farmer mentioned that it would be valuable to know which flock (moor sheep or mules) had had which treatments. This is to be added to the App.

Parasite alerts

Use of the National Animal Disease Information Service parasite alerts was discussed and 3 farmers in the group look at it regularly, especially for Nematodirus in spring. They find it is worth registering for email updates: http://www.nadis.org.uk/