Nelson hosts South Island’s first Facial Eczema workshop

// Animal Welfare // Pests and Diseases

Speakers at the Facing Up to Facial Eczema workshop, which will include vets, scientists, and farmers, will cover the causes, signs, symptoms of the disease as well as the tools farmer have available to them to help mitigate the affects of Facial Eczema (FE).

Sheep family

The production-limiting, potentially fatal disease affects both sheep and cattle. It has traditionally been associated with warmer and wetter parts of the North Island but has recently been identified in Northern South Island areas.

Will Halliday, B+LNZ’s Senior Advisor Animal Health and Biosecurity, says under a changing climate, FE is predicted to become more widespread and track further south.

FE is caused by spores of a fungus growing on the litter in the base of the sward. The spores contain a toxin which attacks the liver.

The fungus is always in the pasture, but when temperatures and moisture levels are high, and grass minimum temperatures remain above 12–13c overnight, the fungus suddenly goes on the rampage, growing rapidly and producing vast numbers of toxic spores.

Will says the liver damage associated with FE results in production losses that are much greater than may first appear. Even when no symptoms are visible, FE can reduce lifetime productivity by up to 25 per cent.

He says there are tools available for farmers to help mitigate the risk of FE in their sheep and cattle and he is encouraging farmers in at-risk Northern South Island regions to start considering FE management strategies, even if they have yet to see the disease on their property.

“ For example, sheep farmers have FE tolerant genetics available to them, so it might be prudent to start considering FE tolerance in ram selection criteria as a way to future proof sheep flocks.” 

For more information about Facial Eczema go to facing-facial-eczema.pdf (