Facial eczema is a disease that affects livestock (cattle, sheep, deer and goats are all susceptible) and is caused by a fungus with a very long name! - Pithomyces chartarum. You need to watch out for this disease, particularly with young stock, as in severe cases it can be fatal.
Here's seven things you need to know about the disease.
1. What is effected?
Cattle, sheep, deer and goats are all susceptible and particularly young animals. The fungal spores release a toxin that affects the liver of the animal.
2. How do they get it?
The animal picks up the disease by ingesting the fungal spores, the fungus lives on dead litter (leaves, grass etc) at the base of pastures.
3. When do I need to worry?
Animals are most at risk of picking up the spores in the summer/autumn time, this is when environmental conditions favour the growth of the fungus and pasture levels are usually lower, meaning the animal grazes closer the the base of the plant where the fungus lives.
4. What are spore counts?
You may see weekly spore count forecasts in farming papers or online. These give a good idea of where your spore numbers may be at and if you need to take any preventative or precautionary action. Another sign of spore numbers is the humble but delicious field mushroom, as this is also a fungus. When these start appearing then it is also ideal conditions for the eczema fungus.
5. What are the symptoms?
Signs a animal has the disease include, drop in production (milk or meat), animals become photosensitive - they tend to seek shade and become sunburnt easily, this is especially noticeable on white patches of shin, the nose and udder.
6. How can i prevent it?
Don't graze paddocks down too low.
Graze your low spore count paddocks, your vet can test this for you.
Spray fungicide on your pasture.
Zinc supplement your animals - this can either be by drench, trough treatment, pasture dusting, or bolus (slow release internal time capsule), zinc treatment should start 2-3 weeks before the spore count reaches the high levels.
7. What are the treatment options?
For dairy cows, dry them off to reduce the strain on the liver.
Put affected stock in paddocks with ample shade.
Apply zinc cream to affected areas of skin.
Give animals plenty of food, if breakfeeding or feeding supplement then feed them at night to limit their time out in the sun.
If they are really sick - use a vitamin b2 supplement or a energy starter drench and seek advice from your vet.
DIY advice for lifestylers, written by Kiwi Cattle Yards owner, Euan Seymour.