How one Scottish flock is tackling Liver Fluke

The effective control of Liver Fluke in sheep will be the focus of the next Lochaber Monitor Farm meeting on Thursday, November 1.

Chris and Malcolm Cameron run the 1,200ha Strone farm, Lochaber’s monitor farm, near Fort William. They have seen liver fluke in their sheep for many years and, like many farmers in the area, are keen to minimise its effects in their flock of 550 North Cheviot ewes.

At the meeting, Matthew Colston, a ruminant technical consultant from Elanco Animal Health, will give an overview of the problems liver fluke can cause in sheep and highlight practical steps farmers can take to minimise production losses from the parasite.

Colston will also lead a discussion on the various fluke treatments available for both chronic and acute fluke infections in sheep and will be joined by Mairi Thom from Crown Vets, who will explain how sheep farmers can test for fluke in their own flocks.

The main aim of the meeting is to focus the group on the benefits of strategic fluke testing which will ultimately result in better decision making.

“Establishing whether your farm has a liver fluke problem, using the right treatment product at the right time and managing your grazing tactically are all vital to effectively control fluke,” he said.

“It is important for farmers to draw up a fluke control plan in conjunction with their vet or sheep advisor as each farm and time of year brings different fluke risks.”

Testing

Six local farms in the Lochaber area, including Strone, are involved in a small trial to try and find the incidence of liver fluke in sheep in the area. They have started collecting faecal samples from small groups of lambs from their 2018 crop.

These samples will be screened in the laboratory for the presence of fluke eggs and the results analysed in time for the meeting.

The same lambs will also have a more complex Coproantigen ELISA test on their individual faecal samples.

The second test is able to detect fluke infection around two to three weeks earlier than the standard faecal egg count method and will help determine the exact fluke status in the sheep from these six farms.

The results of the trial will be shared at the meeting and the group can discuss potential treatment strategies for the farms involved.

Earlier this year, the Camerons took on a tenancy of an extra 42ha of grazing land and some sheds just 11 miles from the home farm at Strone.

After discussion with the management group, they decided to trial finishing all their own male lambs indoors intensively this year. The progress of the lambs – including their weights – has been monitored every two weeks over the summer and an update on their progress will be shared at the meeting.

The Lochaber Monitor Farm is one of nine monitor farms that have been established around Scotland in a joint initiative by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.

The aim of the programme, which is funded by Scottish Government, is to help improve the productivity, profitability and sustainability of Scottish farm businesses.

The meeting on November 1 will be held at Strone farm and will begin at 11:00am and finish around 3:30pm. To book your attendance contact facilitators Niall Campbell or George Gauley on: 01631-563-093 or email: [email protected].