A KILLER parasite that thrives in wet conditions is wreaking havoc among Cumbrian sheep flocks.

Vets warn that the Fasciola Hepatica parasite, which causes potentially fatal  liver fluke, could continue to infect livestock ‘well into 2013’.

“The prolonged mild weather this winter has allowed the life cycle of of the Fasciola Hepatica to continue where it would usually cease,” South Lakeland vet Rachael Robertson said.

“The parasite and the tiny mud snail it lives in usually go into hibernation at this time of year, but the wet and relatively warm conditions have allowed it to build up on pasture where it becomes ingested by grazing sheep.

“Once inside its new host, the parasite passes through the sheep’s liver where it causes damage.” 

Miss Robertson, who works at Kirkby Lonsdale-based Westmorland Farm Vets, said liver fluke had been found in all areas of Cumbria.

“Many farms are suffering numerous fatalities from the disease. It has also left many sheep in poorer than expected condition which is causing great concern as we near the peak lambing period."

She added: “Treatment and control of liver fluke can prove tricky and as the mild weather seems set to continue, we could see this problem continue well into 2013.”

Westmorland Farm Vets are holding a free advice workshop on liver fluke on Thursday, January 10, at The Olde Mill, Bardsea, near Ulverston, from 7.30pm. Call 01539 722692 to reserve a free place.