Sheep management: Getting to grips with liver fluke

The wet weather of late has meant that the threat of liver fluke is very much a concern for sheep farmers across the country.

Liver fluke is a bug that thrives in this country. It is an issue in both cattle and sheep, but sheep are often hit hardest by it.

It affects all ages of sheep as it is picked up off the grass when sheep are grazing; this commonly occurs in the autumn and winter months.

At this stage of the year, acute liver fluke is a concern. It can cause sudden death; internal bleeding; and liver damage.

However, as we progress into November, a sub-acute infection is more commonly seen and it can cause rapid weight loss and anemia.

Therefore, it is critical that the correct product is used when treating for acute liver fluke. In many cases, farmers end up treating for mature liver fluke when, in fact, it’s immature fluke that is causing the problem.

Farmers should be cautious when selecting doses and, at present, a product that treats immature liver fluke rather than the mature type should be considered.

Also, it is useful to look for feedback from the factory as to the status of livers of ewes or lambs you send for slaughter. It will be a good indicator of how effectively fluke is being controlled on your farm.

Avoid dosing ewes for worms

Also, it is recommended not to dose ewes for worms unless there is a demonstrated need to do so.

Mature ewes build up immunity to worms by 12 months-of-age. Therefore, dosing them after this should be avoided at all costs.

Anthelmintic resistance is a growing problem and we need to be more careful about what doses we use on our sheep.