The right dose to use and when to use it. These are problems that trouble all sheep and cattle farmers at this time of year. Sheep, in particular, are so vulnerable to fluke that winter ewe deaths from fluke-related liver damage is commonly attested on Irish farms. It is almost impossible to prevent animals from contracting the parasite, especially if – like me – you have wet ground and have no option but to graze it. The lifecycle of this scourge of sheep farmers is very well understood and has been the subject of numerous studies. In short, fluke parasites that have been living on mud snails during the summer months migrate onto the long grass in early autumn, and from here pass into grazing livestock.
As the weather gets wetter, Agridirect.ie discusses the increased danger of fluke in sheep and offers some advice to farmers on the best treatments available on the market.
A Grim Forecast
The forecast for the foreseeable makes for grim reading. Of the seven days ahead, only one – Friday – is likely to bring as much as a ray sunshine. The rest of the week is set to be overcast, showery or downright torrential. For sheep farmers, this should be a concern. While the dip in temperature over the last couple of weeks has banished the threat of the blowfly, internal parasites remain a major problem. By now, the fluke parasite will have left the mud snail that hosts it during the summer months and migrated onto grass. Wet grassland, especially, will be full of fluke. If you can, you should keep animals off your wettest fields at this time of year, no matter how lush the grass.
Agridirect.ie discusses the danger of fluke on Irish farms as the weather turns wet.
Perfect conditions for parasites
Last week we discussed how the present turn of warm, wet weather is providing ideal breeding conditions for the blowfly. As farmers, we need to be aware that this autumnal humidity offers up more than one threat. A range of parasites are likely to thrive in current weather conditions. Among these, few are a bigger threat than the liver fluke.
For the time being, ground has held up well in all but the spongiest, boggiest land; but if current rainfall continues much longer, we will start to see surface water in places. With temperatures set to remain in the mid to high teens for the foreseeable, we can expect a serious escalation in grass fluke levels in the coming weeks. Naturally, we as farmers want to take every possible precaution to protect livestock from a bad bout of fluke. A serious fluke problem is uncomfortable for animals and a potential catastrophe for farm revenue.