Liver fluke risk

The Department of Agriculture has released its liver fluke disease forecast. The forecast is based on meteorological data gathered between May 2021 and October 2021 by Met Éireann and other sources. This data feeds into a forecasting model known as the Ollerenshaw Summer Index.

This is predicting a high prevalence of the disease in areas such as Mayo, Sligo, south Donegal, north Galway and parts of west Kerry, a medium level of prevalence in the midlands and south, which it says indicates occasional losses due to liver fluke, while the forecast says no disease is anticipated in parts of the east.

The forecast has also utilised blood samples collected from lambs in meat factories in recent years, which are tested for the presence of liver fluke antibodies to determine the presence of disease in grazing lambs. The survey shows that by October, there was a lot of positive results in counties on the western seaboard, while there was also substantial evidence of exposure in lambs from the border areas, midlands, south and in Leinster. Other sources of information, such as the history of liver fluke on the farm and health status of livers in slaughtered sheep, should also be used to inform decisions to treat for liver fluke. It is also important to note that the main threat of disease continues to be from acute liver fluke and therefore products should be used which will at least kill immature and mature stages of the liver fluke parasite.

Figure 1. Ollerenshaw Summer Index values 2021, and the risk of disease due to liver fluke.

Drafting decisions

The reduction in sheep factory quotes has the potential to unsettle some producers. The same advice applies with regard to drafting lambs in an orderly manner and weighing up the best market outlet. There is a solid trade for store lambs, meaning that no underfinished lambs should be showing up in factory lairages. Likewise, it is worth weighing up the type of lamb on hand for slaughter-fit sheep and determining if the mart, factory or butcher outlet is the most suitable.

NISP webinar: The Northern Ireland Sheep Programme (NISP) will host a virtual visit to the farm of Dermot McAleese, Loughgiel, Co Antrim, on Thursday 25 November at 8pm. The virtual visit will include a farm overview, with a particular focus on how it is excelling in terms of lamb output, lamb sales performance for 2021, grassland management and physical and financial performance. It will also outline how Dermot is setting up the farm to ensure high levels of performance are achieved over the winter, while also preparing for next spring to try and insulate the farm from rising concentrate and fertiliser costs. CAFRE specialists will delve in to further detail on this area and cover winter feeding programmes. Pre-registration is necessary to watch the webinar and can be done here.

Future of Irish sheep breeding

Another important webinar will also take place on Tuesday 30 November at 8pm and will discuss how farmers can prepare for proposed changes in the Sheep Improvement Scheme. Speakers from Sheep Ireland and Teagasc will outline proposals for genotyping rams, with particular emphasis on the hill sheep sector, where performance recording is starting from a very low base. The webinar can be viewed here, with the link also available through the Teagasc Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim Facebook page.