top of page

Facial Eczema 2023 - How did you measure up? 

Most of you will be fully aware of the effort and investment the RSC put into minimizing the effects of this disease in the Bay this past summer and autumn. The disaster that was last year’s facial eczema season had us all at the RSC highly motivated to do what we could for our farmer members and do much better this year.


We launched our efforts with a presentation in December given by Dr. Emma Cuttance, possibly New Zealand’s leading and certainly most energetic facial eczema scientist and researcher. Dr Cuttance gave an excellent and hard-hitting presentation (see link below to view this) about all thing’s facial eczema.  


The main points from this presentation were:


  • Spore counting is the basis of all good facial eczema control programs. Each farm needs to know if and when it is time to take action based on spore counts from their own farm. There can be considerable variability of spore counts between farms and even between paddocks within farms and so it is indeed folly to base your prevention strategy on what is happening elsewhere. Spore counts tell the farmer when it is time to start, and also when it is safe to discontinue treatment.

  • It is important to have a good and well thought out prevention plan ready to go long before you need it, because once spore counts reach toxic levels it may well be too late. Talk to your vet to help with this.  

  • Dr Cuttance’s research also highlighted the limitations of in-trough and in-shed feeding systems for administering zinc treatments to farm animals for prevention of facial eczema. Many years of testing (bloods and bulk milk samples) have shown that most herds are grossly under-dosed.  Hence there are still many animals affected by facial eczema.  

  • Zinc boluses reliably give 100% protection when given at the correct dose rate and time.  Of all options for giving zinc using zinc boluses (bullets) is the most effective means of getting zinc levels to protective levels for long enough.


These were all mirrored in what we at RSC have seen here in the Bay this season. 

  • Local farms blood zinc level tests and milk zinc checks (Fonterra) showed great variability with only stock receiving zinc boluses reliably demonstrating 100% effectiveness. 

  • Clinical cases through and beyond the high-risk period.

  • Liver damage causing ill-thrift in young stock and also reported on kill sheets from cull cows.  

In order to encourage our members to spore count this year we offered a package deal that really did the trick. This year we tested 733 samples across the summer and autumn compared to only 145 samples tested in 2022.   


The spore counts peaked in March and were over the toxic threshold of 30,000 spg for around 10-11 weeks. Which incidentally is as long as you can have the zinc levels at protective levels without compromising health through high zinc levels. The other reason you need to spore count is so that you avoid accidentally over-treating with zinc and causing a zinc toxicity!

Going forward, RSC will continue to offer a package deal to encourage spore counting on all farms each season. We are also looking into offering a service for the administration of zinc boluses for our members and also providing the option of spreading payment for herd lots of zinc boluses over three months if that helps.  

Finally, thanks to all of you for your efforts in supporting us with the fight against facial eczema. With your help we look forward to ongoing improvements in how we deal with this horrible disease.

Author: Head Vet, Carl Finnigan.  

bottom of page