FACED with what experienced veterinarians are describing as “frightening” levels of liver fluke in sheep, farmers have been urged to step up their husbandry to deal with a parasite which can and does cause death in infected animals.
SRUC sheep specialist Dr John Vipond said shepherds should look out for behavioural changes that might indicate sheep were carrying a fluke burden. This could be something as innocuous as sheep breaking back when being driven up a hill, indicating they were not as fit as they might be because they were carrying fluke.
His SRUC colleague, Heather Stevenson, who is one of the veterinary investigation officers, confirmed that there had been a tenfold increase in November in the number of confirmed fluke cases presented for post-mortem examination and “this could be the tip of a much bigger iceberg”.
The problem used to be confined to the wetter areas in west Scotland, but she said she had seen some severe cases in the east this past autumn.
Her advice to sheep farmers was to try and find out now if their flocks were infected and treat them if they were, as the adult flukes in the liver now were easier to control.