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Prevention best protection for facial eczema risk

19 December 2012

Prevention best protection for facial eczema risk

Reports that farm revenue is not matching increases to input costs mean farmers need to be acutely focused on maximising production.

Altum Animal Nutrition Manager Jackie Aveling says warmer temperatures and higher humidity are a sign that summer is finally here, but they also signal the potential for facial eczema.

“Dairy and beef cattle, sheep, deer and goats are all susceptible. For dairy farmers in particular, facial eczema can put a real brake on production when they are aiming to make the most of reasonable growing conditions at a time when peak production can taper off,” says Mrs Aveling.

Facial eczema damages the liver and causes inflammation of the bile ducts and an accumulation of certain compounds resulting in sensitivity to sunlight.

Sub-clinical facial eczema resulting from exposure to the toxin sporadesmin could result in an immediate drop in milk production even before physical signs appear.

“It’s possible that farmers will not be aware of the full extent of a facial eczema problem until it’s too late. If as little as 3% of the herd show clinical signs of facial eczema, then subclinical cases can affect up to 70% of the herd.

“This can eat into dairy profits with a drop in production in affected animals by up to 50%, and with a fluctuating returns for commodities, farmers want to ensure every cent hits the bank.”

Monitoring spore counts through summer and autumn and having an early plan of attack for facial eczema in place will ensure the hard work being put into maintaining a healthy herd pays off in sustained production.

Spore counts increase where grass temperatures are above 12 degrees for three consecutive nights and can vary from farm to farm and even between paddocks.

“Farmers also need to take into account the cumulative effect of spore consumption. A count of 60,000 is considered high risk, but stock can still be affected with cumulative effects at lower counts.”

Zinc treatment during the season from late December to May is recommended. The challenge is that the common practice of dosing troughs with zinc sulphate doesn’t guarantee the desired result, as zinc tastes bitter and can reduce water intake.

The solution is to improve the taste, which Altum has done with Zincmax+ which is a combination facial eczema treatment with Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) registration. Its peppermint taste makes it palatable and it includes organic copper. The taste helps ensure herds keep up their water consumption, which is important given their needs can exceed 100 litres at this time of year.

The organic copper helps offset zinc’s antagonistic affect which reduces the absorption of this important trace element. Copper is important for production, immune response and also cycling ahead of breeding. Low copper levels can also affect growth and fertility in heifers.


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