A SPECIALIST livestock health group has warned of a tenfold increase in the number of acute liver fluke cases in the UK’s sheep flock.

Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) says it has received reports of the massive rise in serious Fasciola Hepatica infections caused by recent unseasonable weather.

The killer parasite which causes liver fluke thrives in mild, wet conditions and is ‘wreaking havoc’ in flocks across Cumbria, according to vets.

Last week, Underbarrow farmer David Clarke told The Westmorland Gazette that he had lost around 50 sheep to the parasite.

Meanwhile, North Yorkshire farmer John Henderson said he had heard of 20 fluke-infected shearlings being bought at Penrith of which ‘19 had died’.

“There are big financial implications when they are knocking £3 per lamb off and the price being what it is at the moment,” said Mr Henderson.

Lesley Stubbings, of SCOPS, said an analysis of reports from the Animal Health Veterinary Laboratories Agency suggested a tenfold increase in serious incidences of liver fluke and a fourfold increase in cases of chronic disease.

She said: “The data is supported by reports from vets, who are also diagnosing fasciolosis at post mortem examinations of sheep for their farming clients.

“Sheep farmers must continue to monitor their flocks for signs of infection and treat with an appropriate flukicide.

“If sheep have suffered any liver damage they will also need good feed, to maintain body condition.”

She said treatment with anthelmintics ‘on their own’ may not be enough in very badly affected areas.

Ms Stubbings added: “It is vital to investigate any apparent treatment failures so you can make good decisions on how to control fluke in years to come.”

See www.scops.org.uk