Genetics offer long-term Facial Eczema control

// Pests and Diseases

As humidity rises so do Facial Eczema (FE) spore counts and sheep farmers in affected regions could consider using genetics for the long-term control of the disease.

Image of rams.

While grazing management and zinc are short-term control strategies, genetics offers the best long-term solution to the production losses caused by FE.

This is according to Will Halliday, B+LNZ’s Senior Biosecurity Advisor, who says ram breeders first began selecting for FE tolerance back in the 1980s, so ram buyers now have access to rams bred for FE tolerance over many generations.

He says FE resistant rams have the ability to tolerate the toxin released by the fungal spores and don’t suffer liver damage to the same extent as susceptible rams.

The rams pass this resistance on to subsequent generations, giving commercial farmers the ability to ultimately breed a FE tolerant flock.

Will encourages commercial farmers in affected areas to talk to their ram breeders about their FE tolerance breeding objectives and to use FE tolerance amongst their selection criteria.

He says work is now being done to breed dairy bulls with FE tolerance and their semen is now commercially available. Will believes it will just be a matter of time before FE tolerance will be seen in beef bulls.