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Acting now can reduce facial eczema long-term

Acting now can reduce facial eczema long-term

Hot and muggy conditions this year have provided a timely reminder for dairy farmers to breed a herd that will be more tolerant to facial eczema challenges and have greater resilience to facial eczema long-term.

CRV Ambreed's genetic development strategist Phil Beatson says research and development completed over the past four years by CRV Ambreed and AgResearch resulted in the ability to identify facial eczema tolerant bulls.

Sires now entering CRV Ambreed's progeny test programme are challenged for facial eczema tolerance, and targeted genetics are available to help farmers beat facial eczema long-term.

Beatson says CRV Ambreed's genetics for dairy cattle will typically breed off-spring that are 25% less reactive to a facial eczema challenge, compared to the average bull.

"It isn't an overnight fix though. A dose of facial eczema tolerant genetics this season will help minimise the loss of milk production in the progeny in years to come," Mr Beatson said.

"Farmers need to consider the genetic option to combat facial eczema, and they need to get on the bus now and stay on that bus."

Cattle in many parts of the North Island and upper South Island were hit by facial eczema this year. Higher humidity increased the number of toxic spores in pastures and resulted in a spike in the number of facial eczema cases.

Clinical cases of facial eczema are easy to spot; skin loss and lethargy are clear signs that the animal is suffering from a facial eczema challenge. In extreme cases, facial eczema may cause the animal's skin to fall off and even result in death.

However, subclinical symptoms, which are not noticeable, cost more to the dairy industry through the loss of milk production.

Facial eczema tolerance is a heritable trait and the right breeding programme can reduce the severity of the disease. Sheep farmers have shown the dairy industry how the disease can be addressed for the long-term, with sheep today up to six times more tolerant to a facial eczema challenge than their counterparts 30 years' ago.

CRV Ambreed currently has Jersey, Friesian and Crossbred bull teams available to breed cows with a degree of resistance and more resilience to a facial eczema challenge than the progeny of the average bull.