WARMER damp weather brings with it welcome grass growth, but it also increases the risk of blowflies in sheep – and the first UK cases of blowfly have already been reported.

The first cases of strike have appeared on the web-based Elanco Blowfly Strike Tracker, with eight counties in England and Wales already reporting problems. Given the weather this week in Scotland, it may not be long before sheep here succumb to the scourge.

Animal health suppliers are urging farmers to ‘strike first’ with preventative treatments, rather than risk being caught out. Automatically updated as cases are reported, the interactive map produced by Elanco provides a near live resource, allowing farmers, vets and industry professionals to be aware of risk in their area.

The timing and severity of blowfly strike is strongly influenced by weather and Fiona Hutchings, technical consultant manager at Elanco Animal Health, said there is ‘no sense’ in taking any risks with blowfly.

“It’s crucial we do not get complacent when it comes to blowfly – the costs of inaction can be devastating. It’s an extremely distressing disease to see in sheep, and obviously for the sheep themselves, so there’s no sense in taking the risk.

“Farmers should take control of the situation, before blowfly strikes their flock, by using preventative products with full fleece protection.

“Another benefit of using a preventative product early in the season is that killing flies from the first wave of the insects reduces the total number of flies for the rest of the season.”

She said simply monitoring for the signs associated with blowfly before acting, was a risky strategy: “Waiting for clear signs of the blowfly season before acting is a gamble.

“Farmers are extremely busy and blowfly strike can establish very quickly, so it would be easy to miss an affected sheep.”

* To see the map or report a case of blowfly strike on your farm and alert farmers in your area, go to www.farmanimalhealth.co.uk