Blowfly attacks are coming earlier than normal this year and farmers have been advised this week to dip earlier this year. Fergal Morris, veterinary adviser with Schering Plough Animal Health, said that blowfly attack has been rampant in recent weeks with many of the 2,000 sheep farmers in Roscommon experiencing problems. The level of tick infestation on sheep in the county has also increased dramatically. "Dipping is the most effective way of preventing against blowfly strike and controlling ticks as well as other external parasites, such as scab and lice," said Fergal Morris. "As well as being the most effective control for all external parasites, the cost of dipping is well under half that of pour-ons, which are only effective against blowfly strike. With sheep margins under increasing pressure, the significant cost advantages of dipping are highly significant," he said. Fergal Morris said the big reduction in autumn dipping and the switch by some farmers to pour-ons are major factors in the increase in tick infestation in recent years. "These tiny eight legged creatures severely impair animal performance as well as spread diseases such as Tick Pyaemia, Tick Borne Fever and Louping Ill. Controlling infestation in sheep also reduces the risk of ticks infecting humans." "Lyme Disease in humans, which is caused by a bacterium spread by ticks, is a growing phenomenon in Ireland. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash," said Fergal Morris. He said that Coopers Ectoforce, which is proven to protect against blowfly, is also licensed by the Irish Medicines Board for the control of ticks. It is the only sheep dip in soluble sachets, which increases the safety of using the product and also ensures that sheep are being treated with the correct amount of dip. He stressed the importance of correct dipping procedures to the effective control of blowfly and other parasites. Using the recommended amount of dip, topping up regularly and immersing each sheep in the bath for at least a minute are the three imperatives of effective sheep dipping, he said.