Sheep Poo Study: monitoring Facial Eczema in NZ over three years

website banner for sheep poo study

This study will help understand the extent of facial eczema (FE) across New Zealand. It will help fill gaps in our understanding about how common it is, and what factors contribute to its presence. 

The study is running over three FE seasons, from 2023–2026. Testing occurs from October to May, and we aim to engage the same farms annually, targeting 350 farms each year.

FE is associated with toxin-producing fungi that affects pasture-grazing livestock in the North and South Island of New Zealand. The toxin causes liver damage which can result in reduced fertility and fecundity, weight loss, reduced growth, reduced milk production (where applicable), photosensitivity and sunburn and, in severe cases, death. Currently, there is no cure.

B+LNZ’s Economic Service estimates the annual cost of FE to the New Zealand sheep, beef, dairy and deer sectors to be around $332m per year.

Status: This project is currently active.

Farmers' active involvement will shape future tools and solutions for managing FE

Here’s a summary of what it means to be involved:

  • Roughly every two weeks, we need farmers to collect 10 individual poo samples from one mob of sheep each year between October and May.
  • Instructions, sampling kits and pre-paid return courier packaging are sent by Gribbles Laboratory on behalf of B+LNZ who are covering costs including testing. The B+LNZ Research team will send farmers fungal spore count results and also produce a map (updated monthly) that shows anonymised spore counts across the country.
  • We also ask farmers to provide data about their farm, the sheep involved, and how they currently manage FE. This information will help identify risk factors to better understand the disease and its prevalence.
  • Participants also have the option to share their insights on broader impacts of FE, including its social and economic effects, contributing to a deeper understanding of the disease's wider implications.

Saying thank you

  • Farmers who manage to send in all their samples by the end of the season will receive a Prezzy Card.
  • Each year, 25 randomly chosen farms will undergo monthly FEC (Faecal Egg Count) and larval culture testing from October to May.
  • Expressions of Interest for the 2023–2024 FE season are now closed, but we’d love for other farmers to join next season. 

King Country – one of our youngest sheep collectors. Photo credit: Cathryn Peacocke.

Sign up here and help make a difference!
image of boy collecting poo samples