A study carried out by 24 independent XLVets practices has revealed evidence of fluke infection much later in the year than had been expected, suggesting a more targeted flukicide strategy could be effective. 

The collaborative study, which was sponsored by Norbrook, involved each practice blood testing a cohort of six lambs on 25 individual farms from 16 weeks of age, to look for evidence of antibodies to liver fluke. 

Only 11 farms had positive results in the period from June, up to December, with most only showing one or two lambs out of the six sero-converting later in the year. Even farms located reasonably close by showed positive cases months apart. 

Mark Thompson of Craven Farm Vets in Yorkshire said, “I did not expect to see positive results as late in the year. I expected a positive result earlier (September/October) as the farm is a very wet farm with a long-standing issue with fluke. Also, the weather in the area has been ideal for the intermediate host and fluke development on the pasture.”

Emily Baxter of Drove Farm Vets in Wiltshire said she thinks there is scope to use the results to improve the timing of dosing with flukicides and more responsible use: “We will use the results from this year’s testing to re-evaluate the farm’s fluke control protocol which will help reduce the level of use of flukicides earlier in the season for years with similar weather patterns and assist in planning of strategic grazing.

"We’re looking forward to continuing our work this year, no two years are ever the same, that’s why monitoring is so important. It will allow both ourselves and our clients to build up a picture over time of what’s happening not only on their individual farms, but potentially down to field level! This will allow us to provide more conclusive recommendations. For now, it’s clear that testing has great promise as a means to provide tailored advice to farms on how to control fluke and use the flukicides available to us responsibly.”

Emily says it’s important that farmers do not stop using flukicides based on the results of this study nor assume that there is less risk: “We all know how significant the losses from acute and chronic fascioliasis can be. We therefore encourage farmers to talk to their vet before they change their flukicide treatment protocols and discuss the possibility of using serology as an adjunct to determine how and when they treat.”

Veterinary professionals can find out more about the fluke sentinel project at https://xlvets-farm.co.uk/fluke-sentinel or the XLVets community at https://www.xlvets.co.uk/the-boss/

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