Liver fluke: The results of the latest Department of Agriculture lamb liver fluke antibody tests, which analyse blood samples from factories to determine the timing and geographical spread of the liver fluke challenge, show 20 samples out of 179 with liver fluke, or an 11.17% positivity rate.

The 20 samples were distributed across Mayo (7), Cork (4), Donegal (2), Kildare (2), Kerry (2), Westmeath (1), Tipperary (1) and Wicklow (1).

The incidence was low in August but still serves as a reminder of the risk posed by liver fluke and the possibility of liver fluke infestations in lambs.

Other sources of information should feed in to decisions on whether or not dosing is warranted.

Following up on the health status of livers in slaughtered lambs and ewes to check for the presence of active liver fluke is an excellent source of information. The disease risk on the farm or, in particular, where animals are grazing should also be considered.

Faecal egg samples can act as an aid to determine the presence of fluke but caution is needed as they will not identify early immature and mature fluke parasites which could be causing significant damage. Where sheep are being treated, then it is important at this time of year to use a product that treats at least immature liver fluke. This goes for lambs and ewes, with a pre-breeding treatment common on farms with a history of issues to provide a window where ewes are uninterrupted in early pregnancy.

As detailed here, there is a risk at this stage of the year of using combination products for convenience but many products only target mature fluke parasites, leaving sheep exposed. There is a tendency to use these in lambs due to a short withdrawal period, with flukicide active ingredients that provide extensive cover generally also possessing a withdrawal period in excess of 42 days. Therefore, care is needed in planning if and when to administer fluke treatments.

Temporary grazing agreements: The rapid deterioration in ground conditions in many parts of the country and strong trade for store lambs is quickly opening up interest in temporary grazing agreements, with some suckler and beef farmers keen to get surplus grass grazed.

It is important to note that under the terms and conditions of the Areas of Natural Constraint, the person in charge of lands cannot rent it out on a short-term basis as it is deemed as relinquishing control. However, sheep can be brought in on a temporary basis while maintaining control of the land.

The need to notify the Department of Agriculture and required movement documentation depends on the farm to which sheep are moving to.

If sheep move on to a farm with no stock present or to a separate parcel of land to that on which stock are retained, then sheep can be moved to and from temporary grazing without notifying the Department.

Where sheep are moving to a farm or land block where there are livestock already present, then the Department must be notified. As there is no change in ownership, the onus lies with the owner of sheep to notify the Department.

Notification of the return from temporary grazing is completed by sending the white copy of the dispatch document clearly marked “return from temporary grazing” to your local veterinary office.