The last winter’s wet and mild weather means that sheep farmers need to be particularly aware of the risk of fluke infections in their flocks this spring, according to a leading vet.

This weather creates ideal conditions for mud snails, which carry the parasite, to thrive. NADIS' parasite forecast has pointed out that Scotland is currently one of the highest risk areas, along with north Wales and north-west England.

Slaughterhouse liver condemnations as a result of fluke infestation are increasing too, which lowers slaughter values and the parasites also have an insidious financial impact due to reduced appetite, lower weight gain and occasionally sudden death.

Although bottle jaw can be a sign of fluke infestation, there is no quick and easy diagnosis, which means reducing risk relies on pasture management and a programme of correct flukicide treatments.

“Good pasture management will be really important this spring for controlling fluke,” said Kelly Foley, a vet advisor with Norbrook. “Keeping feed faces and other high traffic areas as dry as possible by improving drainage and keeping animals away from flooded areas, for example by fencing off streams, will help reduce exposure to fluke.”

It will also be important to make sure that new additions to the flock do not bring triclabendazole resistant fluke with them. Ms Foley added: “You can buy-in resistant fluke if you are not careful, so it is vital to manage newly-acquired animals with that in mind.

“Make sure you follow a suitable quarantine process and that you target internal and external parasites before introducing new sheep to an existing flock.”

Ms Foley pointed out that rotating flukicides according to the time of year and using them at the correct dose will help to keep them working more effectively.

“Under-dosing tends to promote resistance, so it is worth checking that your gun is calibrated correctly and that the weighing device is accurate, so each animal gets the correct dose. Over-dosing increases the risk of unwanted effects, and also wastes money,” she said.

* To help farmers with their fluke control Norbrook has produced a ‘Best practice guide for fluke and worms in sheep’. It is foc from