MAF Says Vets Can Ease Oral Facial Eczema Animal Remedy Shortage

13 April 1999

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is reminding veterinarians that they are legally able to prescribe an unlicensed oral facial eczema remedy (zinc oxide) to farmers, in the face of a nationwide shortage of licensed remedies.

The extraordinary long, warm and humid summer had led to an unusually high incidence of facial eczema this season. This has led to high demand for licensed remedies, and supplies of licensed, zinc oxide-based animal remedies have all but run out in New Zealand.

The Registrar of the Animal Remedies Board, Barry Marshall, says zinc oxide is the active ingredient in a number of these licensed facial eczema remedies, which are used as drenches or included in water supplies. These products, licensed by the Animal Remedies Board, are usually sold over the counter and do not require a veterinary prescription.

While there is no shortage of zinc oxide itself, there is a shortage of the approved stabilising agent used in these licensed products, which means it is not possible to manufacture these products according to their licensed formulation.

It is not lawful to sell an unlicensed product, such as 'plain' zinc oxide, over the counter as an animal remedy. However, Dr Marshall says Section 3 of the Animal Remedies Act 1967 permits unlicensed remedies to be used if prescribed by a registered veterinarian. This means farmers can obtain prescriptions from their vets for zinc oxide, of appropriate quality, for use to treat their stock.

"This will be welcome news to farmers who, in most areas, will continue to face the risk of facial eczema in their stock for a further three weeks, through to May," Dr Marshall said.

Alternative measures

MAF says farmers can also take alternative precautionary measures to safeguard their animals.

Senior animal welfare adviser with MAF's Enforcement Unit, Ross Burnell, says alternatives include:

  • Spraying pasture with an appropriate fungicide. However, the pasture may not be safe for 7-10 days afterwards.
  • Use of zinc boluses in lambs, sheep and cattle is also an option.
  • The strategic use of paddocks exposed to the west and south. These cooler paddocks should have lower spore counts than those on the warmer northern slopes. It is preferable not to graze sheltered paddocks.
  • Feeding stock crops, which should generally be safer than pasture. However, weedy crops may be dangerous.
  • Reducing the grazing pressure and not allowing animals to graze down to the toxic zone of the pasture. Speedier rotation and taking the top of the pasture off is preferable.
  • Using supplementary feed as an alternative to grass, ensuring animals do not have access to toxic pasture.

Media inquiries:

Relating to zinc oxide:
Barry Marshall, Registrar, Animal Remedies Board, MAF 04-474 4100

Relating to animal welfare and alternative measures:
Ross Burnell, Senior Animal Welfare Adviser, MAF Enforcement Unit, Phone 09-256 6423 Fax 09-256 6424.



Last Updated: 10 September 2010

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