Facial Eczema

Facial eczema - are we doing enough?

The short answer to that is no. Often our first mistake is to think that if only a few animals are showing clinical signs then we have things under control.

Facial Eczema (FE) is primarily a disease of the liver that sometimes shows up as photosensitivity. This means animals with visible signs are just the tip of the iceberg and the downstream effects for the rest are on production and fertility.

Monitoring

It is clear that the variation in spore counts between farms (even on the same road) is greater than previously thought. The differences in contour, shelter, pasture management, soil types and fertiliser policy to name a few are specific to each farm. So, basing your decisions on when to start and stop FE prevention using the districts surveillance sites alone exposes your own animals to risk. Start too early and you will have to exceed the 100-day recommendation, start too late and liver damage will have already occurred and finishing too soon will leave animals exposed at the end of the season.

That doesn't mean that surveillance is a wasted effort. Instead when the spore counts start to rise or fall at surveillance sites you need to start spore counting your own farm. See our weekly report here...

Prevention

A survey that included evaluating serum zinc and GGT levels across a large number of herds has found that at least 40% of cows did not have a high enough zinc level for protection and that GGT levels are elevated in a high proportion the herd regardless of how prevalent clinical disease is.

Capsules provided the best protection followed by a combined approach with the in-feed and in-water options being least effective in that order. The problems identified for the in-feed option were miscalculating the dose, uneven mixing, wastage and access. For the in-water option miscalculating the dose, leaks, alternative sources and evaporation.

This is too important a disease to take lightly so take time to review your current strategy and discuss the best option with your veterinarian for the coming season.