Fighting Liver Fluke Sustainably

This group aims to develop an effective and sustainable way of controlling Liver Fluke in sheep.

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Field Lab Timeline

    5/29/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • Identifying main areas of interest

    Identifying main areas of interest
  • 8/6/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • 2nd Group Meeting

    2nd Group Meeting
  • 9/11/2018 11:00:00 PM
  • 3rd group meeting

    On farm meeting focussing on snails and options for grazing management with speakers from Moredun.

    3rd group meeting
  • 10/31/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • 4th Group Meeting

    Questions and Answers session with representatives from four pharmaceutical companies.

    4th Group Meeting
  • 12/3/2018 12:00:00 AM
  • 5th Group Meeting

    Meeting focussing on slats for sheep, costings/changing business plans.

    5th Group Meeting
  • 3/1/2019 12:00:00 AM
  • Review impact of liver fluke in autumn/winter

    Review impact of liver fluke in autumn/winter
  • 5/29/2019 11:00:00 PM
  • Final report

    Final report
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    October 2018

    4th Group Meeting

    The group facilitator reviewed the Eskdalemuir rainfall figures for May to September and suggested that the local liver fluke risk was low to average this year. Speakers from four pharmaceutical companies introduced the company they were representing and the fluke products they marketed. An open frank discussion followed on both liver and rumen fluke which is summarised in the following points:

    - Despite the importance of liver fluke in some areas, from the perspective of global pharmaceutical companies it is a minor issue. This makes it very unlikely that they will invest the large amounts of money required to develop new products for the treatment of liver fluke.
    - This was followed by a discussion about resistance to the medicine and bout the toxicity of the products – both as a single use and using two active ingredients together. Fluke vaccines are unlikely to be commercialised.
    - There was general agreement from the speakers that liver fluke cannot be managed with drugs alone. Control needs to be all encompassing, i.e. doing a bit of everything (identification of low and high risk fields with improvement or avoidance of high risk areas at certain times, diagnostics, treatment) to have a chance of managing it in the long term.
    - The use of products must be informed and reliance on a single product is not recommended.
    - Overall goal should be to reduce the infection rate at key times of the year (autumn/winter) to avoid losses due to acute liver fluke.

    Milestone: 4th Group Meeting

    September 2018

    3rd Group Meeting

    • Heather Stevenson talked about rainfall figures for Eskdalemuir; described the mud snail life cycle and favoured habitat; talked about mapping these favoured habitats on fields to categorise and liver fluke risk
    • Heather Stevenson facilitated an interactive session on grazing management to reduce fluke risk
    • Kate Gascoyne talked about the liver fluke operational group in England – this group is analysing the medicine record data of the farmers in the group
    • Philip Skuce described a research finding, that cysts can survive at a pH of 4.0 for 16 weeks; and reviewed the liver fluke lifecycle (see video:
    • Philip Skuce talked about the latest research the Moredun Research Institute have been carrying out on the effectiveness of diagnostic tests, including:
    - faecal DNA tests
    - saliva samples
    - testing the snails (using PCR)
    - grass samples
    - water samples

    Group discussions covered:
    • How different diagnostic tests could be used on farm
    • Mapping habitats
    • Population dynamics between rumen fluke and liver fluke
    • Monitoring livestock vs monitoring the environment
    • Cost of diagnostic tests vs cost of treatments

    Practical session and discussion in the field:
    • Sieves were used to find and identify the correct species of snail
    • Discussion on measures that could be put in place in the fields to manage risk: fencing practicalities and cost; removal of most susceptible livestock groups (i.e. sheep in autumn)

    Milestone: 3rd group meeting

    August 2018

    2nd Group Meeting

    The second group meeting focussed on options for changing areas of the farm or individual fields that are high risk for liver fluke; either by making them less favourable for liver fluke, or by removing livestock and changing their use.

    Advice was given by Chloe McCulloch, SRUC Consultant, on sources of financial assistance, and by Davy McCracken, Professor of Agricultural Ecology based at the Hill and Mountain research centre, Kirkton Farm, Crianlarich with hands on experience of developing, applying for, and managing agri-environment schemes as well being highly knowledgeable about the politics of Brexit.

    Milestone: 2nd Group Meeting

    May 2018

    Identifying main areas of interest

    In this initial meeting, Heather Stevenson (the group facilitator) briefly explained the aims of the Rural Innovation Support Service and presented a review of liver fluke, including its lifecycle within livestock, the mud snail and in the environment; and treatment options available. Local rainfall and diagnostic data was used to illustrate the link between high summer rainfall and losses due to liver fluke in the autumn and winter. Photographs of fields were used to show typical mud snail habitats and the difference between high and low risk liver fluke areas. The clinical signs seen in outbreaks of acute rumen fluke were also described. A copy of the powerpoint presentation will be distributed to all parties.

    A general discussion followed on the challenges that liver and rumen fluke are posing locally and what factors would be of most interest to the group to look at in more detail. The following were considered worthy of taking forward to future meetings:

    1. Discussion with representatives from pharmaceutical companies.
    2. Identifying snail habitats.
    3. Availability of financial assistance for fencing and drainage.
    4. Options for altering business plans.
    5. Pros and cons of slatted floors for sheep.

    Milestone: Identifying main areas of interest

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