Farm Ireland

Monday 23 April 2018

Communication from kill floor key to fluke control


Paedar O Scanaill

The North Eastern region Texel Society had an excellent day of discussion and professional information at Pudden Hill, near Ashbourne, on Saturday last.

The event involved a display of lambs and breeding stock as well as veterinary advice and husbandry advice on all aspects of grazing sheep.

The veterinary advice was given by Frank O'Sullivan of Veterinary Ireland with Michael Mc Hugh of Teagasc advising on husbandry issues. Frank spoke about many diseases but he covered specific issues relating to liver fluke and pasture worms. The most interesting part of the talk centred on correct medicine usage and how to avoid medicine resistance on sheep farms. As the talk progressed, a very useful demonstration was displayed on the hows and whys of product resistance, which has moved on in recent years.

In years gone by, we used to speak about dosing an entire batch and then moving them onto a clean field. It was demonstrated by Frank that this method could lead to resistance building up on the farm. This would occur when the batch is dosed killing all worms sensitive to that wormer. Thus, the only worms left in the lambs would be of the resistant strain. Therefore, the clean pasture over time would become infected with resistant worms only. This sounds like an over-simplified concept and in fact it is. Real life worms do not follow any particular pattern but, broadly speaking, resistance could build up on a farm this way.

So nowadays vets are being encouraged to promote slight changes to the worming programmes. Firstly we should only dose when a worm or fluke dose is required. To help us make that decision we need to see more information flowing back from abattoirs through the farm vet and directly on to the farmer.

Norbert Coyle of Irish Country Meats in Navan was MC of Saturday's event and was keen to get that sort of information from the kill floor back to where it needs to go.

This is essential in fluke control on sheep farms. If livers are turning up in the factories with early stages of fluke infestation, then the farmer needs to know. He seeks veterinary advice on a control programme on the farm and he needs to see clean livers coming through on the next batch. This is essential in fluke control as testing at farm level is of little or no use.

The damage is done by the immature fluke before any eggs can be found in a faecal sample.

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This is the sort of partnership that is emerging at farm level. It involves the producer, the vet and the meat factory that purchases the finished lamb. Irish Country Meats plan to hold many more meetings to facilitate the formation of flock health advice to ultimately produce a better product for sale.

It was acknowledged by both speakers that coccidiosis can be a huge problem on sheep farms in this country. Some farmers present said they never had the disease on their farm while others said they suffered bouts of the disease every season. Control of damp and muddy areas was emphasised for the control of coccidia build-up on any farm. A lot was learned and the day was a credit to the organisers. Beir bua.

The main points taken from this well-attended meeting were as follows:

•Information from the abbatoir back through the vets to the farm is paramount

•Faecal samples taken regularly and simply at farm level is to be encouraged.

•The correct medicine usage needs to be practiced including dosing for disease at known times. Medicine efficiency should be monitored by sampling.

•Methods of fluke and worm control other than total reliance on medicine must be explored. Mixed grazing with cattle, lard drainage, leader -- follower systems as well as the refugia system of worm dosing should be practiced.

Peadar O'Scanaill is a vet in Ashbourne, Co Meath, and a member of Veterinary Ireland. Email: or phone 01 457 7976

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