‘Serious liver fluke epidemics’ forecast

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Fluke has had a “devastating” impact on Borders sheep flocks in the last six months, according to a former NFUS livestock committee chairman.

Union vice-president and Lilliesleaf farmer Rob Livesey’s comments follow a call by NFUS for farmers to tackle the “alarming” increase in the disease where fluke parasites attack the animal’s liver, causing it to lose condition.

The problem is so bad abattoirs are rejecting increasing numbers of cattle and sheep’s livers from the food chain because of fluke damage, say ­union officials.

Rob said: “Liver fluke has had a devastating affect on many Borders sheep flocks in the past six months and has caused major problems with cattle, too.

“Death and ill thrift has been widespread, made worse by the poor nutritional value of fodder made last year.”

Scientists last week warned the problem could get worse.

Higher lab scientist Fiona Burns checks blood samples for fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.

Higher lab scientist Fiona Burns checks blood samples for fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.

Researchers at Scotland’s Rural College and York University combined disease forecasting techniques with climate change projections and concluded that by 2020 “serious liver fluke epidemics” could be the norm.

Veterinary investigation officer at SAC’s Disease Surveillance Centre at St Boswells, Dr Elspeth Scott said more cases of fluke had been brought in this year, but also that farmers are now better at recognising what had traditionally been a west coast disease.

“Conditions have been absolutely ideal for fluke and the impression is there is more of it out there,” she said.

Figures for the first quarter of this year showed Scotland had the highest incidence of liver fluke in the UK.

Claire Tuck, lab scientist  carries out labaratory studies on fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.

Claire Tuck, lab scientist carries out labaratory studies on fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.

Claire Tuck, lab scientist  carries out labaratory studies on fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.

Claire Tuck, lab scientist carries out labaratory studies on fluke worm at the SAC Veterinary Disease Surveillance centre, St Boswells.