Use of blood testing & fluke egg detection to target treatments & reduce resistance on Scottish sheep farms

Date published: 20 July 2022

Applications are invited for this study tour to Isle of Islay, Scotland

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is offering sheep farmers the opportunity to travel to Isle of Islay, Scotland to learn about trial work currently being carried out on farms with regards to fluke detection and targeted treatments.  

These farms are practising a targeted array of testing each autumn which includes blood testing first grazing youngstock in the flock. This to identify when the fluke challenge begins on each trial farm, followed by the use of copro-antigen testing and fluke egg detection to work out when treatments are required. The trial has also used efficacy checks to monitor for triclabendazole resistance on farms.

Faecal Egg Counting (FEC) has become more popular as routine husbandry in NI sheep flocks in recent years, with test results used mainly to determine the requirement for worm and fluke treatments. The trial outlined above has taken this practise to a more in depth level which allows farmers to identify when the fluke challenge begins on farm each year, using young stock which have never been exposed to fluke previously in their lives, potentially delaying the need for fluke dosing in the earlier autumn months and allowing for greater efficiency in the autumn flock management. The subsequent copro-antigen and fluke detection tests allow farmers to identify the point at which the sheep flock has ingested fluke and the cycle has begun and allows for targeted treatment, all of which lends itself to responsible use of anthelmintics and helps to reduce the issue of resistance on farms which is becoming more prevalent.

The tour will include visits to 4 sheep farms over two days.  It is proposed to travel by boat from Ballycastle to Port Ellen, Islay as travel by plane and road would be very time comsuming.  The first day will be spent with two of the Islay trials farms participating in the fluke trial, Cornabus Farm and an RSPB upland farm. The second day will be spent with two large scale sheep flocks, including a visit to the Islay Estate farm before returning home to Ballycastle that evening. A feedback and discussion session will take place over dinner on the first evening.

This study tour is part of the Farm Innovation Visits Scheme which is being delivered by DAERA’s College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).  The group will leave from Ballycastle on the morning of Tue 6th Sep and return on the evening of Wed 7th Sep 2022.  The tour will be led by CAFRE Beef & Sheep Advisers. 

Applications are invited from one member or employee of a farm business that has 150 breeding ewes or more, is over 18 years old on the application closing date and not in full-time education.  Ten places are available on this first trip and these will be allocated with preference given to those who meet the flock size criteria and financially benchmark. Should there be sufficient interest it is proposed that subsequent trips will take place in 2023.  To increase the benefits arising from the study tour, all applicants must identify a group of farmers to share their findings with upon their return. 

The Farm Innovation Visit Scheme, which is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and part funded by the EU, will cover the costs associated with setting up the visit, accommodation, travel outside of Northern Ireland and meals when in Great Britain.  Participants will be expected to meet any additional costs, including farm relief and travel insurance.

Sheep farmers who are interested in participating in this study tour can find out more details and complete an online application from the CAFRE website.

Applications can be completed online from Friday 22 July to Friday 5 August 2022 at 4.00 pm.

Notes to editors: 

  1. Follow DAERA on Twitter and Facebook.
  2. All media queries should be directed to the DAERA Press Office: pressoffice.group@daera-ni.gov.uk

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