Prevention is better than cure with blowfly strike, according to Wexford vet Padraig Harris.

Blowfly strike is one of the main external parasite affecting sheep in Ireland.

As soil temperatures rise above 9 degrees overwintered blowfly larvae will start to develop in adult blowflies. The flies are attracted by the odours of excessive sweating and decaying organic matter and will lay eggs in a sheep’s fleece allowing maggots to develop and feed on the animal’s flesh.

While blowfly strike is likely to occur in warmer, humid weather, the blowfly season is starting earlier and lasting longer than before.

“Usually blowfly strike affects sheep late May/early June. We have experienced a particularly mild winter and the farms that have been affected by blowfly are right on the coast of Wexford, said Harris.

“Very few people will treat for blowfly early this year, so I expect a few more farmers will be caught out. Prevention is better than cure with fly strike.”

If left unprotected, blowfly strike can happen very fast and animals can die within a matter of days.

Blowfly larvae develop through three stages between egg and adult; it is within stages two and three that the larvae cause damage to sheep, known as blowfly strike, which can lead to production losses and welfare problems.

The ‘Don’t Play the Blowfly Lottery’ campaign, developed by Elanco Animal Health, has launched to raise awareness of the risks and potential consequences of inadequate or poorly timed treatment.

Fiona Anderson, Technical Consultant Manager at Elanco Animal Health has also said that prevention is always best in the case of blowfly strike because it can establish very quickly.

“Farmers have so many demands on their time it can be easy to miss an affected sheep.

“An infestation can be easily prevented through the use of products which contain insect growth regulators (IGRs) such as Click and Clickzin.”

She says these inhibit the development of the damaging second and third stage maggots which are responsible for causing fly strike and stock damage.