Last season was an excellent example of how different weather patterns can be between seasons and how unpredictable the facial eczema risk can be. That said we do know that spores are produced by the facial eczema fungus when soil temperatures are above 12°C and humidity is high for at least 2 days. This reliably occurs between January and May most seasons and it is important that we are prepared.
Why is it important that we are prepared for facial eczema?
- The toxin is released from the ingested facial eczema spores that causes liver damage in cows.
- In some cows, this may be visible as loss of body condition, skin lesions and shade-seeking behaviour.
- For every 1 of these cows, it is estimated that there are 10 sub-clinically affected cows (cows that still have liver damage but no visible signs of facial eczema).
- It is estimated that these cows may have reduced milk production by up to 50%. Dairy NZ has introduced a new resource this year; the facial eczema cost calculator. A great resource that makes it easy for you to understand the potential cost of this disease for your herd specifically.
What can we do to make sure that we are ready for the 2024 facial eczema season?
Good pasture management plays a role in facial eczema prevention, but it will only take you so far. In the end, most farms will need to rely on an effective zinc supplementation plan to get them through. Unfortunately, even with what many believe to be a “full zinc supplementation plan” in place, the majority of our herds are not actually protected. In 2014, a study found that up to 2/3rds of dairy farms were in this position. The data from Fonterra’s bulk milk zinc tests back this up, demonstrating that 81% of farms tested in 2022 achieved results in the red category, indicating poor confidence that they were achieving optimal protection of their herds. ’Almost protective’ is not protective. Near enough is not good enough.
We do have herds that achieve optimal facial eczema protection, we know it can be done. It is our goal this year to turn this frown around and help majority of our clients to be optimally protected. So how can we help you?
- Anexa provide a pasture spore counting service. Submit your own pasture samples to know your farm’s true risk level.
- Be aware of what is happening in your area. Sign up to the Anexa spore count emailing list.
- Seek advice from your vet or technical sales representative on the different zinc products available, pros and cons of each product and recommended dosing levels.
- Check that your plan is working (best done 2-3 weeks after full zinc rates have been applied through your system). If you a Fonterra client you can sign up to the bulk milk ZincCheck for an initial guide. Talk with your vet about collecting blood-zinc samples.
Together, let’s put an effective plan in place so we are ready for whatever 2024 brings!
Other resources you may find helpful: