Government injects $20 million to combat $332 million facial eczema crisis in agriculture

Government injects $20 million to combat $332 million facial eczema crisis in agriculture

In a move to address the pressing issue of Facial Eczema (FE) in pastoral animals, Agriculture Minister Todd McClay has unveiled a groundbreaking initiative, backed by government funding.

"Today, we're announcing a $20 million program, jointly funded by Beef + Lamb NZ and the Government. This initiative is projected to save farmers an estimated NZD$332 million annually, while potentially reducing their reliance on zinc dosing as a preventative measure," McClay declared.

Highlighting the government's commitment to supporting New Zealand's pastoral sector, McClay emphasised the importance of ensuring competitiveness and productivity. 

"This project is about ensuring the sector is as productive, efficient, and successful as possible," he stated.

FE is linked to a toxin-producing fungi that targets the livers of grazing animals. With no cure currently available and limited management tools at hand, the issue poses significant challenges to the agriculture industry.

"This fungus thrives in warm moist conditions and is most problematic in New Zealand. Therefore, it's critical that we find new solutions as fast as possible," McClay stressed, underlining the urgency of the situation. 

FE can lead to reduced growth rates, fertility, and production in livestock, profoundly affecting animal health.

The program will adopt a multi-pronged approach, leveraging research and collaboration with leading experts in the field. Prevention strategies, including early detection, mitigation, and management options, will be prioritised. Additionally, decision support tools will be developed in collaboration with farmers and rural professionals.

Complementing these efforts, McClay highlighted the recent announcement of the FE breeding value for dairy cows by the Livestock Improvement Corporation, further underlining the comprehensive nature of the initiative.

"This program supports the industry with tools, so you can get on with the job of providing local and global customers with the premium quality protein New Zealand is so well-known for," McClay affirmed, emphasising the significance of ensuring the continuity of New Zealand's reputation as a provider of top-quality agricultural products.

In essence, the government's injection of funds into this critical initiative signifies a concerted effort to tackle the significant challenges posed by Facial Eczema in pastoral animals. 

By investing in research, prevention strategies, and collaborative solutions, stakeholders aim to safeguard the health and productivity of New Zealand's agriculture sector while ensuring its global competitiveness.