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Vets blame liver fluke infestation for lack of lambs

Vets are blaming heavy liver fluke infestation for poor, early scanning results from low-ground flocks that have revealed there will be less lambs this spring.

Duncan Kennedy of Progressive Animal Services based in Upper Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire, scans a fair proportion of sheep and cattle in the south of Scotland. He told the Herald: "There are less lambs about as a result of fluke, and some of my clients have 30-40% less lambs this year, although I would reckon that most are back about 10%"

Mr Kennedy reports seeing more ascites – excess peritoneal fluid as a result of liver damage – on his scanning screen as further evidence that liver fluke are to blame.

The last two summers have been ideal for the transmission of the parasite that damages the livers of cattle and sheep, and can lead to death.

There have been outbreaks in previously fluke-free areas, and there are many tales circulating of significant losses in lambs as well as adult sheep.

As a result, many have put their flocks on a three-week dosing cycle to control the disease.

Brian Hosie. head of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, confirmed Mr Kennedy's diagnosis.

He said: "It is the case that the problem of liver fluke has contributed to a poorer breeding season for sheep, and not only those on low ground.

"The terribly wet and overcast weather we have experienced has caused high levels of fluke and since products that kill fluke do not have a persistent effect, many sheep have been exposed to a never-ending cycle of re-infection with fluke.

"Sheep that have been parasitised are not as likely to breed successfully, so a ewe that would usually have twins may only have one lamb and those which would usually have only one may not lamb at all.

"Add the problem of other diseases facing sheep and this all adds up to have a noticeable impact on the breeding season.

"Farmers experiencing losses among breeding ewes, or receiving poor scanning results should speak to their own vets.

"They may advise submitting carcases, and samples of blood and faeces to the local SAC Consulting Disease Surveillance Centre, as there may be more than liver fluke responsible for these problems."

Market round-up

United Auctions sold 3250 prime hoggs at Stirling on Thursday to a top of £95 per head and 216p per kg to average 138p (-10p on the week).

The Cumberland & Dumfriesshire Farmers' Mart sold 6851 prime hoggs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £96.80 and 206p to average 150.4p.

Another massive show of 7526 cast sheep saw plainer ewes harder to cash. Heavy ewes sold to £134.50 for Texels and averaged £63.76, while light ewes peaked at £59.50 for Blackfaces and levelled at £37.43. Cast rams sold to £122.50 for a Texel and averaged £74.45.

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