Large numbers of sheep farmers struggled with the challenge of managing liver fluke in their sheep last autumn and winter – but a new initiative is helping to show them they are not alone and have options open to them this season.The creation of an online Liver Fluke Journal is helping shed light on the situation and give tips and ideas for farmers to discuss with their vet or health advisor to apply on their own farm. The journal is written by George Milne, a sheep farmer in Fife and NSA Scottish Regional Development Officer, and is very frank about the problems he has encountered in the past and the need to ask for help.
George says: “Essentially I am opening up my farm and my practices for all to see, which does feel a little strange. I know personally how damaging this parasite can be to a flock, but I believe many of my fellow farmers aren’t aware of that damage or that disease levels change from year to year. If my journal can help others in any way to see how I am managing this disease then it must be a good thing.”
The journal has been made possible because George’s farm is the first ever surveillance farm for the Scottish Fluke Action Group, which aims to provide insightful and educational information to farmers and prescribers to help combat the challenge liver fluke is posing to the industry.
The Scottish Fluke Action Group was set up in the summer of 2013 as a response to the exceptional level of fluke in the winter of 2012/2013 and the impact the parasite was having on the livestock industry. The group includes key figures from the world of farming, science and industry and first met at the Moredun Research Institute near Edinburgh in August where the discussion centred around what could be done to both better manage liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica) and increase the awareness of it within the farming community.
The working group includes Moredun Research Institute, National Sheep Association, Novartis Animal Health, Parkside Vet Group, Scottish Government, Scotland’s Rural College and the University of Edinburgh. Novartis Animal Health and George’s own vets at Parkside Vet Group have been carrying out the surveillance work on the farm to help better understand the fluke situation this year.
The first three entries in George’s Liver Fluke Journal can be viewed in the news section of the NSA website – www.nationalsheep.org.uk/news – and you can sign up to receive alerts when additional entries are uploaded by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.