Facial Eczema - Lifestylers
February 2024

The time has come to protect your animals against facial eczema. This is a disease that can affect sheep, cattle, alpacas and deer, causing serious damage without an effective preventative plan in place. It can occur when animals ingest fungal spores which grow at the base of grass swards in warm humid conditions especially during the months of January through April. When the spores are ingested they release a toxin (spore desmin) into the bloodstream which accumulates in the liver, causing severe damage. Exposure to large number of spores can damage the liver but regular exposure to moderate numbers can do the same. It is highly recommended to bring in grass samples from where your animals are grazing so we can look at the level of spores on your property and assess your risk level.

The damage to the liver can lead to:

  • Photosensitisation
  • Poor growth/weight loss and lowered milk yield
  • Jaundice
  • In some cases death

This is a painful condition for the animals and only 20% of them show the typical facial eczema skin lesions so it often goes undetected.

Prevention is key to successfully protecting your animals against this condition and zinc is the best way to do this. Contact your vet to discuss the best way to give zinc to your animals. It is critical to provide shade and avoid grazing paddocks too low as this is where the highest number of spores reside. Providing supplementary feed such as hay and silage over this high risk period is also a good idea to help dilute the number of spores ingested.