Facial Eczema (FE) is caused by grazing animals ingesting the toxin sporidesmin which is produced by spores of the fungus Pithomyces chartarum. In order for the fungus to sporulate, a series of weather and environmental events must occur, with warm, moist, humid conditions and leaf dead-matter at the pasture base required (Brook 1969). In New Zealand, the combination of required conditions has historically been confined to summer and autumn months in temperate parts of New Zealand as illustrated in a map published by di Menna et al. (2009).
There is a large body of research that concludes that the world is in a period of climate change, characterised by increasing temperatures and extreme weather events (Ministry of Environment NZ, 2008) with the temperature increases predicted to incrementally increase into the future. Using climate change predictions, modelling work reported by di Menna et al. (2009) and Dennis et al. (2014) demonstrated that into the future the geographical regions in New Zealand affected by FE would increase, as temperature increases would result in more areas achieving the minimum temperatures required for sporulation.
Through using published literature and media articles prior to 2016, the worst years for FE in New Zealands history were 1938 and 1999. Indeed the outbreak in 1938 was what led to the establishment of the Ruakura Research Centre (now AgResearch) in an attempt to understand the cause and control of the then-unknown disease that had resulted in photosensitivity, liver damage, production losses and death in affected animals (di Menna et al. 2009).
The purpose of this paper is to report on the FE outbreak of 2016 and to draw temperature parallels to the outbreaks of 1938 and 1999 using weather data from the Ruakura Weather Station.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 77, Rotorua, 107-109, 2017
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