ACTION now will help ensure your cattle will go out to spring pastures free of liver fluke that could potentially cause big problems in the autumn.

While some of those problems will depend on the weather, there are steps to take to help reduce the threat.

Eggs passed in dung from late spring onwards can make a big contribution to the total number of infective cysts on the grass in autumn - particularly if we have a wet summer.

Those eggs will only hatch when average daily temperatures reach, (or exceed), 10°C. The newly hatched fluke then have to find a specific type of mud snail and spend a number of weeks developing inside it before they exit to form cysts on vegetation and be eaten by livestock.

The higher the number of cysts the greater the risk and the chance that infected animals will die, become ill, or lose condition due to fluke.

So, killing adult fluke in the livers of cattle and sheep over the next few months will help to reduce the fluke challenge this autumn. They will have been infected last autumn when fluke numbers reached their peak.

What you can do now:

- If you are unsure if adult fluke are present then collect faecal samples from 10 animals. These can be pooled and checked for fluke eggs. Fluke challenge has been lower this year so stock may not be infected. The timing of previous treatments will also have an effect.

- Otherwise treat all sheep and cattle, (not young lambs and calves), before turn out with a product that will kill adult fluke.

- If time permits treatment should be three weeks before turnout to allow any eggs to be passed in the dung before turnout.

- To prevent overuse do not use products containing triclabendazole at this time of year. (The exception is if you are carrying out a test on a small number of animals to check whether triclabendazole is working. This can be convenient to do when sheep are housed at lambing.)