Facial eczema costs the dairy industry anywhere between $9.6M and $95.2M per year, depending on outbreaks and weather, and the impact on income and animals can be limited by using zinc protection.
“Even with some weather changes now, farmers still need to take facial eczema particularly seriously,” said AgResearch Senior Scientist Dr Chris Morris who is part of a team operating a MAF Sustainable Farming Fund project to monitor zinc protection. The present Ruakura study on zinc sulphate (ZnSO4) protection of cows began in 2008/09 and is also sponsored by Agri-feeds Ltd and by DairyNZ industry levy funds.
“Zinc sulphate is a water-trough treatment which should be effective and easily applied. Facial eczema risk can vary greatly from herd to herd, and even from paddock to paddock, so it is good to be prepared even when the risk in a region appears to be low.”
Dr Morris says the majority of herds AgResearch has looked at are under-protected, so to maximise herd health and welfare, farmers need to ask:
Are troughs in every paddock getting enough zinc? Is the concentration of zinc sulphate right? Recommended concentrations of elemental zinc in the trough water are 60-230 mg/L, and this can be tested in a laboratory (shop around for quotes for testing costs). Are all cows getting enough water and therefore zinc from the trough? “Sadly there are no cheap options with facial eczema and breeding resistance to facial eczema is the only long-term solution. All combat options are expensive and as well as zinc farmers can also either try to avoid the facial eczema toxin by feeding hay, silage or crop, or alternatively, by spraying to kill the fungus. There are other zinc options – such as zinc oxide drenching, or use of ‘Time Capsules’ (all ages) or ‘Faceguard’ boluses (young stock), and farmers can ask their animal health specialists about these.”
“The bright spot on the horizon is that facial eczema resistance in dairy cattle is a heritable trait and AgResearch work over the last six years means that cows and sires can now be ranked for facial eczema resistance, so long term resistant herds can be built up,” said Dr Morris.
Levels of facial eczema risk are available by region on various websites, such as http://www.asurequality.com/facial-eczema-reports.cfm with facial eczema pasture spore counts and cow liver damage levels (GGTs) monitored. Agri-feeds and Sporpak (http://www.agrifeeds.co.nz/index.php?act=products_detail&id=210) offer a spore monitoring service called ‘SporeWatch’.
For more information contact:
Dr Chris Morris AgResearch Senior Scientist 07 838 5417
Sam FisherAgResearch Media Liaison021 714 209
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