Facial Eczema Update – Summer 2012/13

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One of the recurring topics of conversation that has cropped up this past fortnight is the dreaded Facial Eczema (FE). With the start of summer, many farmers have begun to once again consider prevention strategies for this serious liver disease.

It is important to remember that whilst current understanding of the disease is limited, it is thought that a combination of weather conditions and surplus pasture are the conditions most likely for a sporulation event. The past 2 summers in Gippsland have been prime candidates for outbreaks, however this summer is yet to be seen whether we will have the same high rainfall, heat and subsequent humidity, as well as the surplus pasture to provide dying leaf litter in which the fungus (that produces the toxin which causes FE) thrives.

Many cases of photosensitivity are mistaken as FE. If you have a concern, please contact your veterinarian. A GGT blood test is the only way to positively diagnose FE. Symptoms other than the photosensitisation include scours, weight loss, drop in production, and infertility.

This season, the Dairy Australia spore monitoring program will be operating again. Please monitor your local area’s spore counts via the Dairy Australia website. When spore counts spike to a dangerous level, DA will alert local media and attempt SMS/emailing farmers within the district. This spore monitoring program will start up again next week. The counts are some sort of indication as to what is going on in terms of FE risk level in the local area, however if you are concerned and wish to have your own pastures tested, there are selected veterinary clinics that will be performing spore counting for a small fee.

Zinc supplementation is still the most commonly used prevention strategy in Australia. Feeding elemental zinc to cattle can protect them against development of FE. Unfortunately, the level of zinc to be fed to protect the cows is very close to the toxic level, and as such, much care must be taken to correctly dose the zinc. At this time, it is recommended not to supplement zinc for more than 100 days without seeking veterinary advice. For more information on feeding zinc, please contact your Reid Stockfeeds representative.

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