Last night Tim and I went to a talk given by our vets on Liver Fluke in sheep and cattle. We went along with a couple of other smallholders and we all thought that there would just be a handful of people to listen. WRONG there were nearly 100 local farmers in attendance to listen to the talk.
Liver fluke has never really been a problem in this area but over the last couple of years it's been rearing it's ugly head. There is no cure for it, only control by regular medication and some paddock maintenance. This is the only parasite that affects BOTH sheep and cattle, so you have to treat both sets of animals, and not all medication controls the full life cycle of the fluke whilst in the animal.
Interestingly it is thought the reason why fluke is now in the North East is due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak 9 years ago. Everyone that was "wiped" out bought in new stock from the areas that were clear of Foot and Mouth and some of these animals will have come from the West side of the UK where the fluke is rife, and because there has never been a problem with fluke at this side of the country, animals were not given a flukicide as part of their general health/worming programme. Slowly the population of fluke has been growing, we've then had 2 very wet summers, ideal breeding for the fluke and the snail it relies on and BANG, everyone has a problem.
For us, all I know is that we have reeds in our paddocks, which signifies we have wet areas, a good breeding ground for the host snail for the fluke, and though none of our sheep we have taken to the abattoir show signs of fluke damage, we will be dosing our sheep against fluke. There is a joint wormer/flukicide that has come onto the market that has a 27 day meat withdrawal period, as opposed to the normal 56 day withdrawal period. Which means we can treat the lambs that should be going to the market next month as light lambs.
All in all it was a very interesting meeting and it did generate a lot of "chatter" around the tables. Our girls come in at the end of this month for their annual pre tup MOT, so I will be checking with the vet what flukicide we need to be using.