Facial Eczema Information

For more information on Facial Eczema please see the Dairy Australia website

What causes Facial Eczema?

Facial Eczema (FE) is caused by ingestion of spores of the fungus Pithomyces chartarum. These spores release a mycotoxin called sporidesmin which causes damage to the liver, bladder and mammary gland.

When does FE occur?

The fungus grows on most pasture plants, but has a preference for perennial ryegrass. It favours dead pasture litter at the base of plants and animals grazing short pasture at high stocking rates are at greatest risk. Freshly produced spores are the most toxic but can lose their toxicity within 1-2 weeks if fungal growth stops after a change in the weather.

Outbreaks can occur in warm, humid weather with light rain (or irrigation) which is suitable for spore production. Autumn is a high risk period after a long, dry summer as pasture will be light and soil temperatures will still be warm enough for rapid pasture growth.

Signs of FE

Photosensitisation resembling ‘sunburn’, is a common sign frequently affecting the non-pigmented areas of skin. This occurs ~2 weeks after exposure to sporidesmin. The skin of the face, ears, teats, and vulva, are often affected becoming reddened, then crusty and dark. Eventually the skin peels off leaving large raw areas susceptible to infections and flystrike. Cows may be restless, seek shade and lick or rub affected areas. If exposure is sudden, they may collapse in extreme pain.

However, in most outbreaks the majority of animals show little or no visible skin lesions, but have suffered liver damage. For every cow in a herd with skin lesions, up to 10 or more cows may be affected sub-clinically. It is the 80% of cows without skin lesions, but with liver damage, that contribute to the major economic losses.

Deaths, reduced weight gain and poor reproductive performance contribute to economic losses. The udder and teats of lactating cows are often severely affected accompanied by a rapid drop in milk production. This may be temporary but in severe cases affected cows may dry off completely.

Treatment, prevention and control.

There is no specific treatment for FE, and any treatment is considered to be symptomatic. Affected animals should be housed during daylight and allowed to graze at night. At the very least they must be given access to shelter to help prevent further skin lesions and allow existing lesions to heal while the liver regenerates. Areas where skin is peeling should be dressed with sun-blocking ointments.

Please call your vet clinic if you suspect FE to discuss supportive treatment.

Oral zinc can be used to reduce the impact of FE but must be administered prior to exposure to sporidesmin. Zinc does not have a therapeutic effect once cows are already showing signs of FE as it cannot reverse existing liver damage. Daily drenching, in-feed and drinking water have been used to administer zinc. The Agritrade zinc bolus provides consistent and slow release of zinc into the rumen for 4-5 weeks. There are potential side effects with prolonged zinc dosing and these should be discussed with your veterinarian.During high risk periods or an outbreak, the following can help to minimise the risk of Facial Eczema:

  • Avoid very close grazing- shift stock to the longest available pasture.
  • Avoid paddocks cut for hay or late-topped as there is a higher risk of toxicity. If unavoidable, ensure topped material is removed to reduce pasture litter.
  • Feed hay or other supplements to preserve ground feed and minimise close grazing of pasture.
  • Summer-growing crops are generally safer than pastures, so increase access to these when they are available.
  • If pasture is short and grazing pressure is heavy, farm irrigation may be valuable if available and used immediately.
  • Alternate grazing between native and improved pastures if feasible.
  • Pasture spore counts can be pro-actively monitored, allowing early intervention.

Call your vet clinic to discuss further prevention and control options for FE with your veterinarian.

 

Reference: “A Review of Facial Eczema”, Dairy Australia 2013.

Agritrade zinc bolus product range

The Agritrade zinc bolus slowly and consistently releases a daily dose of zinc into the rumen to protect cattle against Facial Eczema for 4-5 weeks. When the risk of Facial Eczema is high, it is recommended to give the Agritrade zinc bolus every 4 weeks; when the risk is low the dose interval can be extended to 5 weeks.

The Agritrade zinc bolus comes in a range of sizes to accommodate cattle of different size and body weight. It is important to weigh some cattle in the group, using static weigh scales or estimate body weight using a weigh tape, prior to dosing. Always dose to the heaviest animal in the group.

ProductBody Weight (kg)Units/Box
130-175kg
Cattle (98g ZnO)
130-175kg24
175-250kg
Cattle (143g ZnO)
175-250kg18
250-400kg
Cattle (232g ZnO)
250-400kg 12

For larger cattle two Agritrade zinc boluses can be used in combination to provide protection:
2 x 250–400kg Cattle Capsules
500-800kg LWT

Agritrade zinc bolus directions for use

Weigh (or estimate body weight using a weigh tape) some representative animals from the group to determine which size Agtritrade zinc bolus is appropriate. Always dose to the heaviest animals in the mob unless there is a wide variation, in which case different size boluses will be required.
Using the correct applicator gun administer the bolus or boluses orally every 4 weeks during high risk Facial Eczema periods. This interval can be extended to 5 weeks during low risk periods.

Body weightZinc oxide provided (grams)Units/Boxes
130–175kg98g24
175-250kg143g18
250–400kg232g12

For larger cattle two Agritrade zinc boluses can be used in combination to provide protection for larger weight ranges as follows:
2 x 250–400kg capsules /500–800kg

Administering Agritrade zinc bolus

  1. Read the instructions carefully and familiarise yourself with the technique.
  2. Keep animals off-feed for 2 hours prior to bolus application to help reduce pressure in the rumen.
  3. Handle animals quietly and in good facilities to reduce stress.
  4. Check the applicator head is in good condition and free from damage.
  5. It is safest to restrain the animal in a crush with locking headbail.
  6. Hold the animal's head forward and raise the chin. Slide the applicator into the side of the animal's mouth and over the back of the tongue.
  7. Administer the bolus, waiting a few seconds to ensure it has been swallowed.
Cattle Application*

Important Notes

  • Zinc can be toxic if given at higher than recommended rates for the prevention of facial eczema and/or for prolonged periods of time.
  • The copper, selenium and calcium status of animals should be assessed at the completion of zinc treatment.
  • DO NOT use at times other than the facial eczema risk period.
  • DO NOT use damaged capsules.
*The above is only a guide to application

Facial Eczema Information

Facial Eczema Information

For more information on Facial Eczema please see the Dairy Australia website

What causes Facial Eczema?

Facial Eczema (FE) is caused by ingestion of spores of the fungus Pithomyces chartarum. These spores release a mycotoxin called sporidesmin which causes damage to the liver, bladder and mammary gland.

When does FE occur?

The fungus grows on most pasture plants, but has a preference for perennial ryegrass. It favours dead pasture litter at the base of plants and animals grazing short pasture at high stocking rates are at greatest risk. Freshly produced spores are the most toxic but can lose their toxicity within 1-2 weeks if fungal growth stops after a change in the weather.

Outbreaks can occur in warm, humid weather with light rain (or irrigation) which is suitable for spore production. Autumn is a high risk period after a long, dry summer as pasture will be light and soil temperatures will still be warm enough for rapid pasture growth.

Signs of FE

Photosensitisation resembling ‘sunburn’, is a common sign frequently affecting the non-pigmented areas of skin. This occurs ~2 weeks after exposure to sporidesmin. The skin of the face, ears, teats, and vulva, are often affected becoming reddened, then crusty and dark. Eventually the skin peels off leaving large raw areas susceptible to infections and flystrike. Cows may be restless, seek shade and lick or rub affected areas. If exposure is sudden, they may collapse in extreme pain.

However, in most outbreaks the majority of animals show little or no visible skin lesions, but have suffered liver damage. For every cow in a herd with skin lesions, up to 10 or more cows may be affected sub-clinically. It is the 80% of cows without skin lesions, but with liver damage, that contribute to the major economic losses.

Deaths, reduced weight gain and poor reproductive performance contribute to economic losses. The udder and teats of lactating cows are often severely affected accompanied by a rapid drop in milk production. This may be temporary but in severe cases affected cows may dry off completely.

Treatment, prevention and control.

There is no specific treatment for FE, and any treatment is considered to be symptomatic. Affected animals should be housed during daylight and allowed to graze at night. At the very least they must be given access to shelter to help prevent further skin lesions and allow existing lesions to heal while the liver regenerates. Areas where skin is peeling should be dressed with sun-blocking ointments.

Please call your vet clinic if you suspect FE to discuss supportive treatment.

Oral zinc can be used to reduce the impact of FE but must be administered prior to exposure to sporidesmin. Zinc does not have a therapeutic effect once cows are already showing signs of FE as it cannot reverse existing liver damage. Daily drenching, in-feed and drinking water have been used to administer zinc. The Agritrade zinc bolus provides consistent and slow release of zinc into the rumen for 4-5 weeks. There are potential side effects with prolonged zinc dosing and these should be discussed with your veterinarian.During high risk periods or an outbreak, the following can help to minimise the risk of Facial Eczema:

  • Avoid very close grazing- shift stock to the longest available pasture.
  • Avoid paddocks cut for hay or late-topped as there is a higher risk of toxicity. If unavoidable, ensure topped material is removed to reduce pasture litter.
  • Feed hay or other supplements to preserve ground feed and minimise close grazing of pasture.
  • Summer-growing crops are generally safer than pastures, so increase access to these when they are available.
  • If pasture is short and grazing pressure is heavy, farm irrigation may be valuable if available and used immediately.
  • Alternate grazing between native and improved pastures if feasible.
  • Pasture spore counts can be pro-actively monitored, allowing early intervention.

Call your vet clinic to discuss further prevention and control options for FE with your veterinarian.

 

Reference: “A Review of Facial Eczema”, Dairy Australia 2013.

Recommended product range

Agritrade zinc bolus product range

The Agritrade zinc bolus slowly and consistently releases a daily dose of zinc into the rumen to protect cattle against Facial Eczema for 4-5 weeks. When the risk of Facial Eczema is high, it is recommended to give the Agritrade zinc bolus every 4 weeks; when the risk is low the dose interval can be extended to 5 weeks.

The Agritrade zinc bolus comes in a range of sizes to accommodate cattle of different size and body weight. It is important to weigh some cattle in the group, using static weigh scales or estimate body weight using a weigh tape, prior to dosing. Always dose to the heaviest animal in the group.

ProductBody Weight (kg)Units/Box
130-175kg
Cattle (98g ZnO)
130-175kg24
175-250kg
Cattle (143g ZnO)
175-250kg18
250-400kg
Cattle (232g ZnO)
250-400kg 12

For larger cattle two Agritrade zinc boluses can be used in combination to provide protection:
2 x 250–400kg Cattle Capsules
500-800kg LWT

Directions for use

Agritrade zinc bolus directions for use

Weigh (or estimate body weight using a weigh tape) some representative animals from the group to determine which size Agtritrade zinc bolus is appropriate. Always dose to the heaviest animals in the mob unless there is a wide variation, in which case different size boluses will be required.
Using the correct applicator gun administer the bolus or boluses orally every 4 weeks during high risk Facial Eczema periods. This interval can be extended to 5 weeks during low risk periods.

Body weightZinc oxide provided (grams)Units/Boxes
130–175kg98g24
175-250kg143g18
250–400kg232g12

For larger cattle two Agritrade zinc boluses can be used in combination to provide protection for larger weight ranges as follows:
2 x 250–400kg capsules /500–800kg

Administering Agritrade zinc bolus

  1. Read the instructions carefully and familiarise yourself with the technique.
  2. Keep animals off-feed for 2 hours prior to bolus application to help reduce pressure in the rumen.
  3. Handle animals quietly and in good facilities to reduce stress.
  4. Check the applicator head is in good condition and free from damage.
  5. It is safest to restrain the animal in a crush with locking headbail.
  6. Hold the animal's head forward and raise the chin. Slide the applicator into the side of the animal's mouth and over the back of the tongue.
  7. Administer the bolus, waiting a few seconds to ensure it has been swallowed.
Cattle Application*

Important Notes

  • Zinc can be toxic if given at higher than recommended rates for the prevention of facial eczema and/or for prolonged periods of time.
  • The copper, selenium and calcium status of animals should be assessed at the completion of zinc treatment.
  • DO NOT use at times other than the facial eczema risk period.
  • DO NOT use damaged capsules.
*The above is only a guide to application

Facial Eczema Risk and Incidence Reports