The Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) and Control of Cattle Parasites Sustainably (COWS) groups are urging sheep and cattle farmers to monitor for liver fluke this autumn.

Speaking on behalf of SCOPS, Lesley Stubbings said: “Last autumn and winter the levels of fluke were relatively low, but many areas have been wetter this year and early indications are that there will be more liver fluke around this season. Reports to date show there is already some disease in high risk areas and, with experts warning the challenge will be patchy, the need to use testing is greater than ever.”

The provisional NADIS fluke forecast for autumn 2019 indicates high risk in Scotland, North West England and North Wales, and moderate risk in Northern Ireland.

John Graham Brown of NADIS said: “While the predicted risk may be low in some areas, local conditions are very important. Farms in these regions that have consistently wet, boggy grazing, must assess their risk carefully in the coming months. Autumn fluke risk is also dependent on eggs being present on the pasture, so areas that were grazed by infected cattle or sheep earlier in the season should be considered a risk.”

Speaking on behalf of COWS, Diana Williams of Liverpool University says: “Farmers now have some very useful testing tools available to them, including a blood test. At this early stage in the season, blood testing this year’s lambs gives us the earliest indication of a challenge, because it only takes about four weeks after infection for antibodies to be present. If they test positive, we know liver fluke are present and treatment is indicated, because they can only have been infected this summer/autumn.

“Taking action will avoid losses due to fluke in high risk situations, but remember that testing can also avoid unnecessary treatments If animals are not infected with liver fluke. This saves money and time and helps us protect the few medicines we have available to combat this parasite.”