14 Nov 2013

Farmers keen on breeding eczema resistance

2:06 pm on 14 November 2013

Farmers are so keen to breed facial eczema-resistant sheep into their flocks that a livestock genetics company selling suitable stock says it can't keep up.

Focus Genetics says it is increasing its sheep testing to breed more rams that can resist the disease, which is a seasonal threat to stock in the North Island.

Facial ezcema is spread by fungal spores in pasture, especially during late summer and autumn. It attacks the liver of infected livestock, can cause serious production and fertility losses and in a bad year, farmers can lose a lot of sheep.

Focus Genetics has, over 20 years, selected and bred romney sheep for both facial eczema resistance and high fertility.

Its sheep and deer programme manager Richard Lee says it's now supplying 600 rams a year from the programme to Landcorp, which is a partner in Focus Genetics, and more than 400 rams to the wider industry.

"The feedback has been excellent ... we have some large-scale flocks in the heart of Northland which are consistently lambing at 155%," says Mr Lee. "It's very good production right in the heart of FE-challenge country".