Fluke has a significant impact on the UK agricultural economy through sheep deaths, decreased production, poor fertility and liver rejections at abattoirs. The risk that fluke presents is highly determined by the climate. With increasing temperatures and wetter weather, the risk is ever rising and has been over the last 10 years.
Fluke requires two hosts for its lifecycle to be completed, one is the mud snail and the other is cattle/sheep. The mud snail is found in muddy, wet areas, making the north a perfect habitat!
The fluke lifecycle, outside of the sheep, is very dependent on temperature. The warmer and wetter the weather the more rapid the development of the parasite and the higher the risk. Development of fluke within the snail usually occurs between May and October and if the weather conditions are correct, the infective cyst stage is released onto pasture during August, September and October.
As sheep ingest the cyst form of fluke from the pasture, the parasite hatches in the small intestine and migrates across the gut to the liver. This immature form of fluke migrates across the liver causing tissue damage and bleeding as it moves and feeds until it eventually reaches the bile ducts in its adult form.
How can fluke affect my flock?