News & Advice

What can I do to reduce the risk of facial eczema on my farm this season?

Feb 3, 2023 | Dairy, Dry stock, Facial eczema, Sheep

Rebecca Smith, Veterinarian

Flooding in January, who would have thought? This season has been a season of the unexpected. Many farmers are asking me what to expect for the facial eczema risk period this season. The truth is there are no guarantees, anything can happen.

The data we collect each week from our monitor farms demonstrates low spore counts in many areas across the Waikato, but there are still occasional farms with spore count levels that indicate moderate to high risk. In addition to this we are seeing sporadic cases of clinical facial eczema as well.


Ok, so what can I do to reduce the risk of facial eczema on my farm this season?


The first thing you need to do is get an understanding of YOUR facial eczema risk:

This can be achieved by picking two monitor paddocks on your farm to spore count regularly. I recommend taking samples weekly at the start of the season (now). Once you are obtaining fairly consistent results you may choose to lower surveillance to every 2nd week. For more information on pasture sampling and spore counting click here


Once you know your facial eczema risk level you can implement your facial eczema prevention plan:
  • Remember that zinc supplementation through the water needs to be added in gradually (half rates for at least 2 weeks before going to full rates).
  • If you are a dairy farm with dry stock make sure you have a prevention plan for the dry stock as well as milking animals.
  • Remember that dry stock do not drink sufficient water to obtain protective zinc levels for facial eczema prevention.
  • If spore counts are low enough (less than 20,000) and pasture is rapidly growing (many places this season) fungicide spraying may be a good option for you to keep spore counts low. When done correctly this can keep spore counts low for up to 4-6 weeks. Continued spore count monitoring is recommended with this method of control.
  • Zinc is toxic when overdosed so it is a good idea to consult your vet when making a zinc dosing plan.


Once your plan is in place, check that it is working:
  • If you have sprayed your pasture with fungicide, monitor spore counts weekly to check that it has worked.
  • There is a bulk milk sample test available to Fonterra clients to check that your zinc supplementation is achieving protective levels in your herd (ZincCheck).
  • Serum (blood) and faecal zinc tests are available for drystock
  • It is best to check that your zinc dosing is achieving protective levels after you have been dosing at full rates for 2 weeks.


And remember if in doubt contact your vet or come and talk to one of our friendly front counter staff or Sales Reps.

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