UK – Designated surveillance farms could be developed as a tool to improve the forecasting of liver fluke outbreaks for livestock farmers, a panel of experts has suggested.
Five such farms are already having flocks regularly monitored for liver fluke burden but ambitious plans held by the newly formed Farming Against Liver Fluke (FALF) action group could see more on the way.
Launched on Thursday 27 August, FALF aims to tackle a growing liver fluke problem in the UK, started by high precipitation in 2012 and 2013.
This is a critical time for the industry to act, with more farms at risk from fluke than in the past, according to Dr Phillip Skuce, senior scientist at Edinburgh’s Moredun Institute.
He said: “The disease appears to be increasing in the UK and spreading to previous fluke-free areas.
“This is probably due to wetter summers and milder winter favouring the mud snail, the intermediate host of the fluke.”
Speaking at the launch, sheep farmer George Milne, NSA regional development officer for Scotland, backed the idea of surveillance farms, likening them to the blight monitoring farms in the potato industry.
He said they could be an “early warning sign” for farmers in specific regions.
He said: “I think surveillance farms could be a great way to communicate with nearby farms.
“If you are farmer and a surveillance farm is having liver fluke problems then that might be a way of making you take notice and farms across the area to think something must be done – there’s a problem nearby”.
Surveillance farms are currently located at Mr Milne’s farm near St Andrews, as well as farms at Lockerbie, Kendal and in South Wales and Devon.