Sheep were 10 times more likely to suffer from fluke at the end of 2012 than a year earlier, and the disease remains a major threat to livestock, according to an industry-led parasite forecast.

Sheep were 10 times more likely to suffer from fluke at the end of 2012 than a year earlier, and the disease remains a major threat to livestock, according to an industry-led parasite forecast.

UK sheep remain at risk from fluke this springThe National Animal Disease Information Service (NADIS) has warned sheep continue to be at significant risk from fluke going into February 2013, on the back of official AHVLA figures that show incidence was 10 times greater in the last quarter of 2012, compared to the previous year.

Farm vet and NADIS spokesman David Wilson said: “The very wet summer conditions will have resulted in heavy contamination of many pastures with liver fluke infective stages during the summer and autumn.

“These infective stages are a major risk to livestock. Significant risk to stock will extend into February in many situations, particularly as conditions have been quite mild without a prolonged freeze. If a significant freeze over several days does occur, this should help to reduce risk to stock.

“Sheep on infected premises will have picked up infection over the late summer, autumn and winter. There have been many losses due to the effect of these young fluke damaging the liver (acute disease). A tenfold increase in acute liver fluke disease cases has been seen by AHVLA in the last quarter of 2012 compared to the same period of 2011.”     

He added: “Many infected animals will subsequently suffer from chronic fluke disease, causing ill thrift and poor production if not effectively treated.”  

The NADIS parasite forecast is based on recent data from veterinary practices and Met Office weather predictions. It is sponsored by Merial Animal Health.

Urging producers to think carefully about treatment options, Merial vet Fiona MacGillivray said: “Any winter treatments in housed or outwintered cattle will depend on previous treatments, as well as likely risk, and should be discussed with your vet or animal medicines prescriber.

“Grazing cattle may have been exposed to fresh infection after any previous treatments, and housed cattle that have not been treated since removal from pasture are likely to be showing signs of chronic fluke disease. They should be treated now to remove the fluke, but bear in mind affected animals will take some time to show a recovery to better body condition.”

For more information visit the NADIS website.

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