Facial eczema alert issued
North Island farmers have been warned to check their stock for signs of facial eczema after a sharp jump in spores from the fungus causing this disease among livestock.
Pithomyces chartarum fungus which lives in pasture, produces a spore containing a toxin causing liver and bile-duct damage to livestock when eaten.
The high spore counts were the result of high soil temperatures and recent wet weather, AsureQuality facial eczema monitoring co-ordinator Leo Cooney said.
’’There is a combination there that is a recipe for disaster.’’
The most recent report from Gribbles Veterinary Laboratory on April 17 showed counts were at extremely high levels in many districts.
Most Waikato districts were rated as a high risk with highest levels in the Hauraki Plains having a count of 535,000 spores per gram followed by Waitomo which scored 205,000/g.
The highest in the North Island was Horowhenua with 762,000/g.
Counts become dangerous to livestock when they measure more than 100,000.
Cooney said the worst cases of facial eczema always followed droughts and these areas were the ones affected the most.
’’There are two reasons for that, one is that conditions become right for it and the second is stock are grazing short pastures so they are picking up every spore that’s available.’’
Litter on the base of pastures rotted after rain and it was in this environment that provided the perfect breeding ground for the fungus.
’’The warm soil acts like an electric blanket and the fungi love those conditions.’’
The next few weeks were a risky period for farmers and Cooney urged farmers to test their pasture for spore counts and maintain their zinc treatments to mitigate the disease effects.
Although night and morning temperatures may feel cooler, it took a lot to cool the earth’s soil temperatures down at this time of the year.
Soil temperatures taken in the Horowhenua last week ranged between 19.3 and 21.5 C, which were perfect growing conditions for the spores, he said.
Farmers needed to remain vigilant and keep precautions fully in place until spore counts and soil temperatures dropped.
He also recommended farmers continue to feed out supplementary feed to their stock to lessen the chance of stock consuming spore-affected pastures.
- © Fairfax NZ News