Facial eczema thrives in regions like Franklin between December and May when our climate tends to be humid and warm. In these conditions, large numbers of spores build up which are eaten by grazing animals. Once eaten the spores release toxins, which damage the liver and bile ducts. The damaged liver can no longer detoxify waste products, and they build up. A breakdown product of chlorophyll builds up in the blood causing sensitivity to sunlight, which in turn causes inflammation of the skin with any UV exposure. In severe cases, the skin can peel off, leaving large burn wounds that can become infected and cause severe pain and suffering. The un-pigmented white areas of the body are most susceptible to skin damage in cattle.
12 ways to prevent facial eczema using your pasture
Facial eczema prevention and diagnosis with Franklin Vets
Facial eczema is caused by a toxin produced by the spores of a fungus growing on pasture. When ingested by cattle and sheep, the toxin damages the liver and bile ducts. The damaged liver cannot rid the body of wastes and a breakdown product of chlorophyll builds up in the blood causing sensitivity to sunlight, which in turn causes inflammation of the skin. The resulting liver damage can severely affect their welfare, affect production and fertility or cause death. The fungus grows on soft litter at the base of the pasture so hard grazing during danger periods increases the risk of spore intake as does topping which increases the build-up of soft litter.
Facial eczema – Learn more & be prepared
Facial eczema is a disease of cattle, sheep, deer, goats, llamas and alpacas but not horses. The disease is caused by a fungal spore called Pithomyces chartarum. The fungus grows on dead plant material found at the base of the pasture — especially perennial rye grass — releasing spores sporulation during the summer months, usually between January and May.
Facial eczema is a type of sunburn photosensitisation affecting exposed areas of pale skin of sheep and cattle. It is caused by a poisonous substance called "sporidesmin", which is produced on pasture plants by the fungus Pithomyces chartarum. Major outbreaks occurred in sheep in and , and in cattle on irrigated pasture in Sporadic cases, mainly in sheep, have been recorded in other parts of Victoria.