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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Methods of Prevention

No cure for the liver damage is known. Severely affected animals showing skin lesions (photosensitisation) may appear to recover if kept in shade, but decreased liver function may lead to a relapse under conditions of stress, particularly in ewes during the later stages of pregnancy. Prevention of the disease depends mainly on keeping the animals from pasture which contains the fungus during climatic conditions conducive to its growth and sporulation. In districts prone to this disease, warnings are issued on the basis of temperature and rainfall data and on estimates of the increase in numbers of spores on selected pastures. Farmers are advised to remove animals from pasture to crops, such as chou moellier and kale, or to concentrate them on bare paddocks and feed hay. A decision to release the animals to grazing is generally based on a marked change in weather conditions, such as drying out and a persisting fall in temperature, sufficient to prevent further growth of the fungus. Attempts to develop a vaccine or other means of immunising animals have not been successful, and from the chemical nature of the liver-damaging substance, sporidesmin, such an approach is unlikely by existing techniques. Control of the fungus by spraying pastures with fungicides appears equally unpromising. Another possible form of control involves management of the pasture during the spring and summer to produce conditions least favourable for the growth of the fungus; in particular, a reduction of the dead litter on which it grows. In some experiments along these lines at Ruakura Research Station incidence of the disease has been lowered, but so far no generally applicable reliable procedures have been established.

Facial eczema was once thought to occur only in New Zealand, but in recent years it has been recognised in New South Wales and Victoria.

by Norman Trevor Clare, M.SC., Chief Bio–chemist, Ruakura Animal Research Station, Hamilton.

  • Photosensitization in Diseases of Domestic Animals, Clare, N. T. (1952)
  • Proceedings of the Ruakura Farmers' Conference Week (1961), “Progress in Facial Eczema Research”, McMeekan, C. P.
  • New Zealand Journal of Agriculture, Vol. 105 (1962), “Further Progress in Facial Eczema Research” Smith, J. D., Clare, N. T., Lees, F. T.