Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Facial Eczema Research Holds Promise For New Zealand’s Agriculture Sector

Senior research economist Richard Yao and resource economist Saeed Solaymani

Scion is contributing its expertise in economic modelling to an ambitious and collaborative programme led by Beef + Lamb New Zealand aimed at eliminating the impact of facial eczema on New Zealand’s pastoral sector.

Senior research economist Richard Yao and resource economist Saeed Solaymani will be analysing survey data collected from 600 livestock farmers over a phased seven-year programme to understand the impact and effectiveness of new prevention strategies and tools being developed to combat the disease.

Marc Gaugler, portfolio leader for Distributed and Circular Manufacturing, says demonstrating the positive economic impact that in-forest or on-farm solutions have on regions and New Zealand is a key focus of Scion’s eco-industrial regions programme.

“The economic impact assessment framework that our team will develop is an example of generating research results that we need to make informed decisions and benefit our primary industry and economy.”

Facial eczema is associated with a toxin-producing fungus and affects the health of a range of livestock including sheep, cattle, deer, goat and alpacas.

While causing trauma to animals, the economic impact to farmers is estimated at $332 million annually through losses caused by reduced animal growth rates, fertility and production. It can also cause significant stock losses during severe outbreaks.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

It not only impacts the financial bottom line for farmers but also their mental wellbeing. With climate change, the disease is expected to spread more widely across New Zealand.

At present there is no cure for facial eczema with zinc dosing one of only a few management tools available.

The Eliminating Facial Eczema Impacts (EFEI) programme, announced in March by Agriculture Minister Todd McClay, will bring together many of the country’s top researchers as part of a $20.75m partnership jointly funded by Beef + Lamb NZ, the Government through the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, and the primary sector.

It aims to reduce reliance on zinc as a preventative measure and limit the impact of facial eczema by delivering solutions developed with farmers and leading scientists at AgResearch, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, universities and rural professionals.

By enhancing farmer adoption of prevention measures and new treatment technologies, the programme is expected to achieve a reduction of $38m in economic costs associated with the disease. Longer term benefits to New Zealand’s economy are expected to increase by an additional $20m each year after the programme ends.

Yao highlights the importance of the research, saying “By conducting comprehensive cost-benefit analyses and resource efficiency assessments, we’re aiming to demonstrate the value of strategies that will not only reduce economic losses but also improve the resilience and sustainability of New Zealand's agriculture sector."

Data collection and analysis

Yao and Solaymani will run focus groups and collect survey data from about 600 pastoral farmers. They will gather information on farm demographics, revenue, expenditures, such as animal health and labour costs, and the impact of facial eczema on profitability. Through rigorous data analysis and economic modelling, the team will assess the effectiveness of interventions and evaluate key factors that influence their uptake.

“Results from the cost-benefit and productive efficiency analysis can be used by farmers to help them make decisions and assess the benefits of different options for managing facial eczema on their farms,” he says.

The research will provide an opportunity for Yao and Solaymani to build on previous economic modelling at Scion. In 2023, the pair teamed up in a study, funded by Forest Growers Research, which looked at the value of mountain biking and its wellbeing benefits. It also explored the role of planted forests compared to other mountain biking destinations.  

Yao and his economics and decision support researchers also contributed to the five-year Marine Biosecurity Toolbox programme that aims to protect New Zealand’s marine environments by managing marine pests and invasive species. Yao’s team has delved into how much implementation initiatives would cost to create a healthier marine environment, and what the wider benefits would be.  

Yao hopes the EFEI programme is only just the start of greater collaboration with agricultural stakeholders.  

“Our modelling can be applied to many primary sectors. This latest research is another example of how scientists combine for a more unified, coordinated approach to finding solutions for New Zealand Inc.”

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.