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Facial Eczema spore counts on the rise

Draft Media Release
For immediate release

AsureQuality confirms Facial Eczema spore counts on the rise

Spore counts on the rise across most areas of the North Island is of concern to AsureQuality's facial eczema monitoring programme.

AsureQuality has partnered with Gribble Veterinary, AgriFeeds Limited, Meat & Wool NZ, RD1, Dairy NZ and a number of veterinary practices to produce regular facial eczema spore count reports mainly for the North Island.

The past week has seen a rise in spore counts across most areas and farmers are being urged to ensure they have systems in place for stock in the high spore count areas of Whangarei, Gisborne, Wairoa, Wanganui and Horowhenua regions.

AsureQuality's District Manager Wayne Baxter says an increase in spore counts to moderate in the Franklin, Hauraki Plains, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions was expected given the prevailing conditions.

"It's vitally important for farmers in the areas where there is a high spore count that preventative measures have been taken for stock and in the areas where spore counts are moderate that farmers are proactively thinking about protecting their livestock."

Common techniques for preventing facial eczema include giving zinc oxide by regular oral drenching, zinc sulphate via the water supply, intra-runimal long-acting boluses, and spraying pasture with fungicide.

"The reason for the rise has come as a result of the rain and the resultant humid conditions parts of the country experienced last week." said Mr Baxter.

Mr Baxter is also reminding farmers to act before facial eczema symptoms appear.

"Be aware that by the time five percent of a herd or flock have obvious skin damage, up to 70% of the group will be liver damaged" said Baxter.

Infected animals display signs of photosensitisation and look distressed. The first signs are often reddening and swelling of skin exposed to the sun (i.e. around the eyes, ears, lips, nose and udder) as well as restlessness, shaking and rubbing of the head and ears, and the seeking of shade.

Farmers now have an online resource to help the track facial eczema with weekly spore count reports posted on line with , www.meatandwoolnz and

About facial eczema

Facial eczema affects sheep and cattle (and to a lesser extent goats and deer) throughout the North Island and northern end of the South Island. Historically these have been the most prone areas however changing weather patterns are resulting in facial eczema being evidenced in wider locations. It is responsible for serious production losses with affected stock suffering liver and skin damage, which together contribute to ill-thrift, reduced fertility, reduced milk production, and in severe cases death. Warm, humid conditions support the growth of a fungus (Pithomyces chartarum) in pasture which produces a toxin (sporidesmin) that poisons the liver. As the liver cannot get rid of phylloerythrin, a chlorophyll breakdown product, it circulates in the blood. Phylloerythrin releases energy when exposed to sunlight causing skin damage similar to severe sunburn.


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