Summer poses facial eczema threat

BEEF and Lamb New Zealand is warning farmers to be prepared for what could be a bad summer for facial eczema and fly strike.

The organisation’s North Island general manager, Matt Ward, said frequent rainfall in many areas had made it difficult for farmers to keep on top of pasture quality, and dead and rotting dry matter at the base of pastures created an ideal breeding ground for facial eczema (FE) spores.

“Hot and humid conditions, three consecutive nights of over 12 degrees and mushrooms growing in paddocks and on lawns are all indicators that conditions are favouring FE spores,” Mr Ward said. “Black patches in pasture are also a sign that climatic conditions are favouring fungal growth.”

Mr Ward advised farmers to be proactive and implement a facial eczema prevention strategy, such as treating stock with zinc bullets and moving stock away from known facial eczema hotspots on their farms.

“Feed crops, such as pasja, chicory, plantain and rape, do not typically harbour FE spores so are a favourable feed option when FE spore counts are high.

“Some spore monitoring services are reporting high spore counts already, well ahead of the traditional facial eczema season, and anecdotal evidence suggests farmers in many areas are already treating fly strike, (which is) worse in conditions conducive to facial eczema.

“While making hay or silage off pasture paddocks will help by exposing the base of the pasture to sunshine, topping can exacerbate the problem by leaving dead dry matter on the pasture, creating the warm, damp, dark environments favoured by FE spores.”

Facial eczema, which affects the liver of livestock, can cost the industry millions of dollars in lost productivity.

“While the clinical signs of the disease, including severe light sensitivity, are distressing for both livestock and farmers, subclinical symptoms can cause production losses and impact on ewe fertility.”

BEEF and Lamb New Zealand is warning farmers to be prepared for what could be a bad summer for facial eczema and fly strike.

The organisation’s North Island general manager, Matt Ward, said frequent rainfall in many areas had made it difficult for farmers to keep on top of pasture quality, and dead and rotting dry matter at the base of pastures created an ideal breeding ground for facial eczema (FE) spores.

“Hot and humid conditions, three consecutive nights of over 12 degrees and mushrooms growing in paddocks and on lawns are all indicators that conditions are favouring FE spores,” Mr Ward said. “Black patches in pasture are also a sign that climatic conditions are favouring fungal growth.”

Mr Ward advised farmers to be proactive and implement a facial eczema prevention strategy, such as treating stock with zinc bullets and moving stock away from known facial eczema hotspots on their farms.

“Feed crops, such as pasja, chicory, plantain and rape, do not typically harbour FE spores so are a favourable feed option when FE spore counts are high.

“Some spore monitoring services are reporting high spore counts already, well ahead of the traditional facial eczema season, and anecdotal evidence suggests farmers in many areas are already treating fly strike, (which is) worse in conditions conducive to facial eczema.

“While making hay or silage off pasture paddocks will help by exposing the base of the pasture to sunshine, topping can exacerbate the problem by leaving dead dry matter on the pasture, creating the warm, damp, dark environments favoured by FE spores.”

Facial eczema, which affects the liver of livestock, can cost the industry millions of dollars in lost productivity.

“While the clinical signs of the disease, including severe light sensitivity, are distressing for both livestock and farmers, subclinical symptoms can cause production losses and impact on ewe fertility.”

Tips for preventing facial eczema

Treat animals with zinc.

Monitor stock in pastures and remove if possible when rank pasture starts to break down.

Where possible, make hay or silage off surpluses.

Consider facial eczema tolerance in genetic selection criteria.

Feed forage crops during high-risk periods.

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