Spore Counts

Facial Eczema​

Click here to view the latest spore count data.

Facial Eczema is a disease that results in serious skin disease, liver damage, reduced milk production, reduced growth rates - and even death in severely affected animals.
The disease is caused by a toxin (Sporidesmin) that is released by a fungus which lives on pasture (Pithomyces chartarum).
a) It damages the liver
b) It strips the lining and blocks up the highly important bile duct
c) Causes irreparable skin damage as the skin becomes inflamed and may peel away

Some recent trial work showed that 32% of North Island farms had experienced liver damage from Facial Eczema based on blood results (10 of these farms in the trial were our clients!)
It is estimated that for every one clinically affected animal there are 10 with subclinical damage and liver effects.
What can we do?

First of all and most importantly is to know your situation. There is incredible variance within and between farms so you need to monitor your own farm!!
Spore counts

  • They tend to rise with warm nights and wet grass for most of the day, 12 degrees and 4-6mm rain
  • The season can range from late Dec through to May (but mostly Feb and March)
  • They rise rapidly and fall slowly - due to wind, rain and ingestion
  • Worse on northern hills, use this as an indicator if doing regularly
  • Cut grass from 1cm above ground from at least 5 spots, 10m apart
  • Avoid soil in the sample and sheltered spots
  • Vary grass type and length

You can bring grass samples in to the clinic and we can monitor what levels are on your farm.

​Genetics - there are potential gains to be made with breeding FE tolerance in cattle. There are gains already made in the sheep species however cattle will take a lot longer.
Pasture Spraying - Fungicides can be sprayed on pasture. This has to be done very early (December) and well before spore counts have risen.
Pasture Management - Manage Pasture quality to minimise build-up of soft litter so that the fungus can’t flourish. If you have a problem present, then avoid grazing down to below 4cm until risk period has passed.
Zinc - This is probably the most effective treatment currently. It needs to be given daily and each dose needs to be accurate. If you aren’t giving enough then it is completely ineffective. We stock zinc boluses which are the most effective at preventing disease. Daily zinc dosing is also very effective.
The biggest issue with daily dosing is the variability of doses. Oral drenching is very good but mixing in feed is not as effective (still better than nothing unless they are getting too much!). 
Recent trial work suggests that we either underestimate live weights or we inadequately mix into feed. (Even premixed feed in silos is a problem as a lot of the zinc gets shaken down and fed in the first part and none in the last).