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Facial eczema and spore counting

facial eczema spores under microscope

facial eczema spores under microscope

Ash Keown, Veterinarian
Facial eczema (FE) season is right on our doorstep, and I know you'll all be watching the area spore counts with bated breath!

These area spore counts are a great monitoring tool for general trends, but aren't the most accurate for indicating the risk of facial eczema for your own herd.

Pasture spore counts only tell half the story – which is what is lurking in the grass. The other half of the story is what happens between the grass and the cow.

We also know the pasture spore counts can be very different from paddock to paddock, and grazing management has a massive effect on the risk of FE in your herd. Factors such as forage type, grass quality, residual cover length, and amount of supplementation can massively change the number of spores your cattle are exposed to.

So far we've been limited to either counting the pasture spores (only half the story), or testing the liver for damage (by which point it's already too late!).
This year we're introducing faecal spore counting through the lab at our Te Awamutu clinic. Faecal spore counts are a more accurate measure of the number of spores your cattle are really exposed to, and are specific to your herd and your grazing management.

Sampling for faecal spore counts is easier than for pasture counts – just collect faeces from 6-10 animals into individual pottles, and drop them in at your local clinic. Generally you should have results back the same day, and it only costs $20 for up to 10 animals.

So get collecting, and monitor the FE spore exposure in your own herd this eczema season.