Occurring during summer in warm and humid conditions, facial eczema is a major threat to animal health and productivity.
If you live in the North Island, you probably have a problem with facial eczema, and it will be costing you.
Prevent and manage the risk this summer and you won't only be protecting your sheep and cattle. You could save yourself thousands of dollars.
Remember, this costly disease is a hidden killer. Your losses are much greater than they appear. Even when no symptoms are visible, FE can reduce lifetime productivity by 25 per cent. However you can minimise the risk.
Practical ways to reduce your losses
Breeding for increased tolerance to facial eczema should be your first line of defence. Buying FE-tolerant rams will make a big difference in just a few years.
Using a range of other methods as well can greatly reduce the damage caused by facial eczema. Choose those which are best for your farm and use two or three together.
- Give all or part of your flock a zinc bolus, which lasts six weeks, or dose with zinc oxide weekly or fortnightly to reduce liver damage. For large numbers, you can spray zinc on pasture.
- Quit stock early, build up feed reserves, and aim for light rotational grazing.
- Spore counts will help you identify safer parts of the farm for grazing (the shady, windy places). Talk to your vet. Most clinics have a spore counting service.
- Fungicide sprayed before the onset of the FE season will reduce spore counts for five to six weeks. Use these pastures for your replacement ewe lambs and hoggets.
- Aim to be lightly stocked through the danger period.
- Get together with neighbouring farmers to share knowledge and hear advisers.
- Don't relax precautions too soon - a few cool nights or heavy rain doesn't mean danger has passed. Once spore counts rise, pastures remain toxic until the spores disappear.
Stay informed and you'll already be one step ahead.
Facial eczema spore count reports
Every Friday afternoon from mid-January to May, we'll publish the week's spore count report on this page, featuring actual spore counts by region and district.
Read the latest report here: Facial eczema risk and incidence monitor (PDF, 200KB)
For more information, read our helpful publication Facing up to facial eczema [PDF, 1MB]
If you have further questions, talk to your vet, AgResearch, or your local Beef + Lamb New Zealand extension manager.