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Eczema research needs poo

Beef and Lamb New Zealand [BLNZ] is seeking farmers interested in taking part in its three-year facial eczema [FE] research project – by collecting sheep poo.

FE, which affects pasture grazing livestock of all ages, impacts different parts of the country, especially during the summer/autumn when the weather is warmer and humid.

There’s currently no cure for FE, which is caused by a toxin [sporidesmin] and can eventually lead to liver damage, lowered production, or death.

BLNZ estimates the annual cost of FE to the New Zealand sheep, beef, dairy, and deer sectors sits at around $332m.

BLNZ science strategy manager Suzi Keeling said those who volunteer to take part in the research will be playing an integral role in shaping future tools and solutions for FE management.

“To ensure we get an accurate picture of facial eczema from every corner of New Zealand, we are looking for 350 enthusiastic farmers – 22 each from 16 regions around New Zealand – to collect samples from October to May each year for three years,” she said.

“We want samples collected across New Zealand regardless of whether farms have experienced facial eczema in the past. BLNZ will provide instructions and sampling kits, and cover the costs to courier samples to the laboratory.”

Those who put their hands up to take part in the study will be required to collect samples 16 times, every two weeks. Samples must be taken from the same mob of sheep throughout the season, although Keeling said a different mob can be used each year.

“It’s as simple as taking a walk in a paddock, there’s no need to yard the animals. Just scoop up ten individual fresh samples from the ground,” Keeling said.

“In return for the samples, BLNZ will provide faecal spore count results as soon as lab testing is completed, access to a monthly updated map showing spore counts around the country. and a Prezzy Card at the end of the season if you are able to send all the samples in.”

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