The facial eczema risk eased in the very Far North last week according to monitoring by Kaitaia veterinary practice Topvets.

It recorded spore counts of 30,000 (low risk) at Pukepoto and Kaitaia, 5000 at Houhora, and nil on the east coast. No samples were taken at Waipapakauri, Takahue or Rangiputa.

Counts of 100,000 and 60,000 were recorded at Kaitaia and Pukepoto respectively the week before.

Topvets warns that counts of 100,000 and more are considered dangerous, although its monitoring results should only be taken as a guide, as spore levels could vary from farm to farm.


Facial eczema tends to be a problem during warm, humid summer and autumn weather. Sheep are most susceptible, followed by dairy cattle, beef cattle and red deer, fungal spores containing the toxin sporidesmin causing liver damage that can lead to photosensitisation.

Only a small proportion of affected animals might display the skin lesions commonly associated with the disease, however, the real impact arising from liver damage.

There is no effective treatment for the liver once it has been damaged, although it is able to recover itself if the damage is not extensive.

Preventive measures include sowing specific grasses and feed crops, reducing reliance on rye grass, encouraging earth worms, rotating stock, reducing stock numbers and grazing shady, south-facing paddocks or those open to dry prevailing winds.

Visible symptoms of clinical facial eczema include sudden death, restlessness, shaking and rubbing heads against posts and gates, avoiding direct sunlight, drooping and reddened ears, swollen eyes, eyes and exposed areas develop weeping, scabby skin that may become infected or fly-blown.