Facing facial eczema before it takes hold

Facing facial eczema before it takes hold

22 October 2019

Remember the saying, ‘timing is everything’? It’s certainly true when it comes to managing the risks of facial eczema with zinc.

As the main tool for preventing the disease, zinc can only unleash its protective power once adequate levels have built up in the animal. Achieving this before facial eczema season means you’re better prepared in case of an early outbreak.

Rising temperatures and high humidity go hand-in-hand with summer in New Zealand. Unfortunately, these conditions also promote the growth of fungal spores in pasture. Once consumed by cows, these toxic spores wreak havoc in their system as they travel through the blood stream until they reach the liver where they cause severe damage. This eventually leads to various issues such as light sensitivity and ultimately manifests as outwardly visible signs of facial eczema, namely skin peeling, reddening of the udder and/or a decline of milk production.

However, these clinical cases are only the tip of the iceberg. In many cases, farmers are faced with difficult-to-detect sub-clinical cases and for every cow that is showing clinical signs, there are another 10 that are sub-clinical. While those animals don’t show clinical signs of liver damage, they are nonetheless significantly impacted and their milk production can drop up to 50 percent.

“At this point, cows are already irreversibly affected by facial eczema despite showing any clinical signs,” explains Natalie Hughes, SealesWinslow Nutrition and Quality Manager. “Their liver tissue is damaged and will not regenerate. It also leads to weight loss and reduced reproductive performance,” she says. Best practice is that a preventative measure must be in place well before then.

Zinc plays a leading role because it effectively soaks up free radicals before they can cause extensive cell damage. However, for zinc to do its job, it must be supplemented in a timely fashion. “Zinc can only act as preventative once adequate levels are built up in the body, and this takes some time,” explains Natalie. She recommends starting at least two weeks before the spore count is likely to rise and emphasises the fact the spore count/exposure is cumulative. “One day’s exposure at a spore count of 30,000 causes the same damage as three days at 10,000.” This explains why it’s so important to start supplementing early.

Dosing early enough is also relevant given increasing climatic extremes. Once spore counts are elevated, irreversible damage has already occurred. And since there is no cure for facial eczema, you can only mitigate the issue going forward.

To provide solutions for all farming situations, SealesWinslow offers a range of supplementation choices including water soluble options such as Zincmax+. This popular option also contains added chelated copper – an important addition because zinc notably inhibits copper absorption and can easily lead to a copper deficiency. For pregnant cows this is a crucial factor as copper supports the muscle development of their unborn calves.

Farmers feeding SealesWinslow bulk dairy pellets may also customise them with added zinc. The company’s FeedSafe NZ certification provides additional peace of mind that ingredients are perfectly mixed and pelleted, ensuring animals consume just the right amount of zinc for your herd and feeding rate.

With a timely dosing programme, close monitoring of spore count levels and good pasture management including avoidance of hard grazing (to minimise ingestion of spores which grow in the dead litter at the base of pasture), facial eczema can be effectively managed. It provides a viable defence against this unpleasant disease and eliminates associated health costs along with animal losses, while protecting your productivity levels.

To discuss your facial eczema prevention strategy, contact your local Farm Source TSR or visit sealeswinslow.co.nz

Article supplied by SealesWinslow