Lamb liver fluke antibody test results - Oct 2020


Using abattoir blood samples from slaughtered lambs to detect the timing & spread of fluke infection

Since 2015, from June to December, DAFM has taken lamb blood samples in factories from a proportion of flocks at the time of slaughter. These have been tested for liver fluke antibodies to determine the timing and geographical spread of liver fluke challenge to grazing lambs. This testing did not commence until August in 2020, due to challenges caused by the COVID pandemic in slaughter plants.

The number of flocks selected for sampling from each county is intended to be proportionate to the sheep population of that county over the entire sampling period (August to November 2020). A number of samples are taken from each selected flock, and these are pooled at laboratory level. The presence of liver fluke antibodies reflects the level of challenge the lambs have experienced during the most recent grazing season. The presence of liver fluke antibodies in 2020 born lambs is therefore a sentinel for exposure to liver fluke in the wider sheep population in the region, as by definition these lambs must have been exposed during the 2020 grazing season.


Results up to and including October 2020

Results for the country for August to October 2020 are as follows:

Added 16.11.2020


Please see maps in Figure 1 and Figure 2 below for more detail on the distribution of positive and negative results.

Added 16.11.2020

Map of Fluke Exposure October 2020 (pdf 146Kb)   

Figure 1: Lamb liver fluke ELISA test results for October 2020. Points have been moved slightly to preserve anonymity of flock owners

Added 16.11.2020

Map Non-negative fluke ELISA results up to Oct 2020 (pdf 144Kb)   

Figure 2: Non-negative lamb liver fluke ELISA test results up to October 2020. Points have been moved slightly to preserve anonymity of flock owners. Closed points refer to positives for October; open points refer to positive results from the previous months.

In the October testing, positive test results were found in samples associated with flocks from a range of counties. Certain areas appear to show high levels of liver fluke exposure. As in previous months, positive test results were detected in substantial numbers in flocks based in the west and northwest. This October, positive and inconclusive results are fairly widespread, with substantial numbers of positive and inconclusive cases also found in Kerry and West Cork, in the border and midlands areas, and in parts of Leinster.  

Compared to last year, the proportion of positive results for this October is somewhat lower, but there are additional inconclusive results in several counties compared to the October 2019 picture.

For an account of the liver fluke situation in October 2019 please see:,135302,en.html

Overall, the data suggest a similar level of risk for 2020 so far compared to the same period in 2019. Further test results next month, and the liver fluke forecast due to be produced in November 2020, will add further information to help farmers, vets and others to assess the risk of fluke for 2020 with additional confidence.

As the sample size for some counties is small, farmers in these particular counties need to be cautious when interpreting the results of the survey as they relate to their areas. Additionally the county associated with a batch of lambs is that where the flock of submission is registered. In a minority of cases, where the lambs had been purchased shortly before slaughter, the county associated with a batch will not reflect accurately where the batch of lambs spent its life. Absence of inconclusive or positive test results for a particular county should not be taken as conclusive evidence that liver fluke is absent from that county.

Thanks to Seamus Fagan of Athlone Regional Veterinary Laboratory, Padraig Kellegher of VPHIS and Kate O’Keeffe, DAFM blood testing laboratory in Cork for the information provided.

Species: Ovine
9:00 AM on Tue, 17 November