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Gippsland Herds on High Alert for Facial Eczema

29 February 2012

AUSTRALIA - Gippsland dairy farmers, particularly those in West Gippsland and Yarram, are being urged to feed their herds supplementary zinc immediately, if they are not already doing so, with current conditions posing a very high risk of facial eczema.

Dr Jakob Malmo, of Maffra Veterinary Centre, who is co-ordinating Dairy Australia’s spore monitoring program, said spore counts had risen over the past week, particularly in West Gippsland.

While counts in the Macalister Irrigation District have not risen dramatically, the current climatic conditions – rain and warm nights – could encourage further multiplication of facial eczema spores so farmers needed to be prepared.

“Now is the time for urgent action if you haven’t already started feeding a preventative zinc supplement,” Dr Malmo said.

The overall average spore count for Gippsland is now more than 80,000 spores per gram of pasture, well above the level likely to cause liver damage with prolonged exposure (which is 20,000 spores per gram).

In West Gippsland, many of the farms monitored have spore counts above 100,000. Cattle grazing pastures with this spore load are more likely to develop acute liver damage and photosensitisation.

“We are starting to get reports of cases of facial eczema across Gippsland. By the time this happens, the liver damage has already occurred,” Dr Malmo said.

“The greatest cost of facial eczema to dairy farmers is from the 80% of cows with liver damage but no skin lesions. These cows will have lower milk production and fertility. That’s why preventative zinc is so important.”

Dairy Australia introduced a spore monitoring program this summer/autumn, prompted by a widespread outbreak across Gippsland last season, with the likelihood of favourable conditions again this year.

Further Reading

- Go to our previous news item on this story by clicking here.

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