Facial Excema

We personally believe that Facial Excema is the single biggest problem that could affect Alpacas and Llamas in New Zealand.

We would like to pass on some information that you may find interesting but in no way are you to take what we am about to tell you as being correct or an answer to any Facial Excema problems that may occur on your property. This is purely my own personal experience.

When I was a kid growing up (many years ago now) my father was a share milker on a 100 acre farm up north at a place called Ruakaka. They have a race track there. The soil was peat which usually has a lower PH than most other soils around the country.

When Facial Excema first became a problem in NZ Ruakura used our farm as a research type farm and came out on a regular basis to do spore counts on the pasture as well as try different sprays to see if they could stop the Facial Excema spores from growing. They were always painting lines on the paddocks and running around with a spore counter carrying out all sorts of tests.

We had Excema so bad that whole udders on some of the cows would fall off and many lost huge pieces of skin from their sides and udders. Many cows had to be destroyed because of this terrible disease.

Our Farm had a central race right down the middle with paddocks either side of this race system. This farm also used to grow thousands of mushrooms every year as well. Mum and dad used to freeze huge amounts of mushrooms every year so that we could enjoy these delicacies all year round.

The spore counts due to the property being in northland were huge. After being there for about 3 years Dad decided that the property needed some lime so he put one ton of lime per acre on one half of the property. This was put on early in January before the facial Excema season started. That year there were no mushrooms on that side of the property and neither were there any Facial Excema spores on that side of the race either. The following year Dad put again one ton of lime per acre but this time did the whole 100 acres. That mushroom season there were no mushrooms on the place at all. Neither were there any spore counts.

Now MAF and AGG Research say that this can not be true and that putting lime on the pasture will stop Facial Excema from growing.

Last year Elise (from Federated Llamas) sent me some information about the effect that Lime has on the worm population in soil. The information basically says that if you put Lime on your pasture then the worm population will increase markedly. It then goes on to say that the worms actually come out of the ground at night and eat the dead grass matter and decomposing grass matter close to the top of the soil. This is the same dead matter that the Facial Excema Spores grow on. We all know this is where the spores grow. We also know that Alpacas & llamas love to eat this dead matter at the base of the pasture.

Now I am not saying that putting Lime onto your paddocks will stop Facial Excema. What I am saying is that it wont hurt at all to do this. Weather it is the Lime that changes the PH of the soil for a short period of time (and this is why you don't get mushrooms when you put Lime on your paddocks) or the Lime makes the worm population grow and these extra worms eat a lot of the vegetable matter that the spores grow on, I don't know but I do know that it is worth doing just in case it does work on your property.

The first two years we were on our current property we had a large amount of Mushrooms and some really strange toad stalls as well in two of my paddocks down on the flat. After putting Lime on last year in January at the rate of one ton per acre there were no mushrooms that season. We am about to Lime my property again this month.

What we do to try and stop Facial Excema on my property is the following :

  1. Put Lime on the paddocks in January at the Rate of one ton per acre.
  2. Spray the Paddocks with Benlate which is a fungicide spray that you get from your farming stores like Farmlands. There is detailed information on these products in your Information Packs.
  3. We feed out all the Hay my animals want in a Hay Rack so that they eat less grass over the danger period as well.
  4. We get regular spore counts done to make sure they are staying low on our property.
  5. We pray and hope it will be a good year and that the spore count stays very low

Again we would like to stress that putting Lime on your pasture will not stop facial Excema but if you talked to my Dad he would convince you that it worked on our farm in Northland many years ago.

If you do nothing at all and just hope that this disease will pass you by then 
you are playing Russian Roulette with your animals lives.