News & Advice

The Hidden costs of Facial Eczema – Can you afford to take the risk?

Dec 5, 2017 | Dairy, Dairy Animal Health & Welfare, Facial eczema, Minerals

Rachel Hamill, Anexa FVC Veterinarian Morrinsville

Cows visibly suffering from Facial Eczema (FE) are just the tip of the iceberg in your herd. If you have even one cow showing skin signs (clinical symptoms), there will be a significant proportion of your herd which are sub-clinically affected. A sub-clinical cow may look normal to the naked eye, but may have serious liver damage which will limit production. A 2014 North Island study found that 32% of farms had sub-clinical FE damage, at an estimated production loss to the industry of $78 million. Remember, this study took place in an “average” year – 2014 was not a particularly bad year for FE. 
Zinc is a well-known and effective preventative treatment for FE in cattle. What many people do not know, however, is that Zinc must reach a certain protective level in the cow before it is effective. If your cows fall short of this level, then you are not providing your cows with the protection they require. Based on recent studies, and our own experiences at Anexa FVC last year, an alarming two thirds of herds are not reaching adequate Zinc levels to provide protection. 
Losing a cow to FE is a known cost, and a FE related cull may or may not affect you on an average year. It is the iceberg effect of the hidden costs that you need to also consider: 
– What is the effect of sub-clinical liver damage on your herd’s production? 
– How much money do you spend on Zinc treatment? Do you know if it is working? 
The solution for any herd is simple. Ensure you have a well thought out Zinc programme. Ensure that you start before the spore challenge spikes. Ensure that you monitor to assess effectiveness. 
Ten blood samples can tell us if your herd’s zinc programme is effective and these same samples can also tell us if sub-clinical liver damage is one of your hidden costs. 
If the results show that your herd is not protected despite your current Zinc treatments, your Vet will work with you to determine the underlying cause, and help you to work out solutions. This should be done early in the Zinc season so that there is time to make changes. 
Don’t supplement blindly hoping that it will do the trick. The fact is that Zinc supplementation can be an excellent preventative treatment, but it can also be hit and miss. Can you afford to take the risk? 
An important note from our Technical Sales Reps (TSRs) regarding bulk Zinc for 2018 FE season: Unfortunately, our suppliers have been unable to make commitments on delivery, availability, and pricing this year due to international uncertainties in the market. We have made a commitment to a limited amount of bulk Zinc (hepta, mono and oxide), which will only be available through your TSR. Alternatives include organic Zinc multi-mineral mixes and Zinc boluses. 

Contact your TSR to discuss your Zinc needs. 

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