The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is offering sheep farmers the chance to travel to Isle of Islay, Scotland to learn about trial work currently being carried out into fluke detection and targeted treatments.

These farms are practising a targeted array of testing each autumn, which includes blood testing first grazing youngstock in the flock.

This is done to identify when the fluke challenge begins on each trial farm, followed by the use of copro-antigen testing and fluke egg detection to work out when treatments are required.

The trial has also used efficacy checks to monitor for triclabendazole resistance on farms.

Faecal Egg Counting (FEC) has become more popular as routine husbandry in NI sheep flocks in recent years, with test results used mainly to determine the requirement for worm and fluke treatments.

The trial outlined above has taken this practice to a more in-depth level which allows farmers to identify when the fluke challenge begins on farm each year.

Fluke treatment

It uses young stock which have never been exposed to fluke previously in their lives, potentially delaying the need for fluke dosing in the earlier autumn months and allowing for greater efficiency in the autumn flock management.

The subsequent copro-antigen and fluke detection tests allow farmers to identify the point at which the sheep flock has ingested fluke and the cycle has begun.

It then allows for targeted treatment, all of which lends itself to responsible use of anthelmintics and helps to reduce the issue of resistance on farms which is becoming more prevalent.

The tour will include visits to four sheep farms over two days. It is proposed to travel by boat from Ballycastle to Port Ellen, Islay as travel by plane and road is considered very time consuming.

The first day will be spent with two of the Islay trials farms participating in the trial, Cornabus Farm and an RSPB upland farm.

The second day will be spent with two large-scale sheep flocks, including a visit to the Islay Estate farm before returning to Ballycastle that evening.

A feedback and discussion session will take place over dinner on the first evening.