Monday, 20 July 2020 09:19

New research on FE tolerance testing

Written by  Staff Reporters
FE causes damage to the bile system of the liver of the animal which can reduce a ewe’s lifetime productivity by 25%. A secondary effect is photosensitisation, which causes skin reddening and peeling, leaving affected area susceptible to other infections. FE causes damage to the bile system of the liver of the animal which can reduce a ewe’s lifetime productivity by 25%. A secondary effect is photosensitisation, which causes skin reddening and peeling, leaving affected area susceptible to other infections.

A pilot study investigating the potential of a facial eczema (FE) tolerance test is being launched this month.

The purpose of this pilot study, which is being led by AgResearch’s Dr Axel Heiser and funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), is to test the feasibility of a laboratory-based test to determine an animal’s tolerance to the toxin associated with FE. 

If initial results look promising, the test will require further development and full validation to make it a readily available test for breeders and commercial farmers. 

FE has been around in New Zealand for over 100 years. 

The cause of the disease is attributed to the toxin sporidesmin, produced by the fungus Pithomyces chartarum. This spore-producing fungus sits in the litter at the base of pasture swards.

Sporidesmin causes damage to the bile system of the liver of the animal which can reduce a ewe’s lifetime productivity by 25%. A secondary effect of the liver damage is photosensitisation, which causes skin reddening and peeling, leaving affected area susceptible to other infections. It is suspected that for every clinical case of FE there are 10 more with the disease.

This disease causes significant production losses and impacts on the welfare of affected animals. It has been estimated that in a bad year, FE can cost the country $266 million in lost production.

More common in warm, moist environments, a changing climate means FE is likely to spread further into southern regions over time.

Most research into FE is historical and limited management tools are available. This is despite the significance of FE and the length of time it has been affecting livestock in NZ. 

“This (latest) work is a great example of B+LNZ investing in research now to find solutions to a problem that farmers face now and that will become worse over time” says Dan Brier, B+LNZ’s general manager farming excellence.

The pilot study gets underway this month and results are expected by March 2021. If the pilot is successful – and funding can be secured – validation and implementation of the test is expected to be completed by late 2022.

Heiser says that with new science approaches and technologies, there is an opportunity to find a solution to this serious issue for New Zealand farmers. 

Alongside this proof-of-concept work, B+LNZ will be working with Heiser to build a collaborative funding bid to for a larger research programme to investigate the knowledge gaps of FE in New Zealand. 

This programme aims to provide several new strategies to reduce the occurrence and impact of FE for farmers. 

• For more information about Facial Eczema go to:

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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