News & Advice

Katrina Roberts, Herd Health Veterinarian, Anexa Vets

With a wet November and pasture quality being a little bit difficult to manage, there is already dead litter accumulating at the bottom of some pastures. Two years ago we saw pasture management decisions in December have a big impact on early facial eczema (FE), so potentially we could see the same again this season if we don’t have good plans in place.

It’s these warm, wet conditions with residual plant litter that can make for a challenging facial eczema season. The fungal spores that cause facial eczema can produce another generation of spores within 48 hours in the right conditions. These toxic spores build up quickly at the base of the sward where they are readily consumed by grazing livestock.

Every season has different patterns of warmth and wet; however, spores are always present on pasture, and given how quickly conditions can change, no season is free from facial eczema.

None of us can accurately predict what 2023 will bring, but we know that without an effective zinc supplementation plan organised, your herd will be at risk of facial eczema.

Unfortunately, even when our farmers have full zinc supplementation in place, blood tests often show that zinc levels in supplemented animals are not high enough to be protective against facial eczema. A 2014 study found that the majority (two-thirds) of farms were in this position. This is consistent with Fonterra’s findings from last season where 81% of farms that had a ZincCheck test had results in the red, indicating a low confidence that they were reaching optimal zinc levels. ‘Almost’ protective is not protective, near enough is NOT good enough.

So, the Anexa team want to set our farmers a zinc supplementation challenge for the new year:

  • Be ready to start supplementing zinc in early January. Make sure your zinc products are ordered before the Christmas break and remember our technicians can help with bolusing your stock.
  • Sign up to Anexa’s spore count emailing list
  • Speak to your vet or local technical sales representative (TSR) about the different zinc products that are available, their pros and cons, and correct dosing levels
  • Do spore counting on your own farm, as every farm has a different environment
  • Discuss with your vet how you are going to check your zinc supplementation plan is working; there are a couple of different options
  • & for our Dairy Farmers – If you are a Fonterra supplier order your ZincCheck test in the bulk tank, or collect blood samples two weeks after you start full zinc supplementation. The ZincCheck offer for farmers for the 2023 FE season will be the same as 2022: The first test is free and subsequent tests are $99.  Once your result is back you can tweak your plan and then do some blood tests to check the changes you’ve made are working.

Together, let’s put effective zinc supplementation plans in place, so we are ready for whatever 2023 brings.

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