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The ups and downs...

Been a tough few weeks on the ranch. Facial eczema has been extreme in the Western Bay of Plenty. This is a fungus that thrives where there are warm ground temperatures coinciding with high humidity and moisture. The fungus spores produce a toxin that damages the liver. Spore counts are considered extreme at 450,000 yet one farm near us has had counts of over a million. We've a few alpacas under the weather so have been working our way through blood tests and fecal egg counts to work out whether it is in fact facial eczema. Our property is at 380 metres and exposed so we have never had an issue before, although we still feed out zinc nuts as a preventative measure. Zinc can protect livestock against the toxins. The alarm bells were going off though as two had never really taken to the nuts and a couple of others are the meekest in their respective paddocks and may have not got a look in when we fed out the zinc nuts. However it looks more complicated. One has liver damage and no worms, so we thought facial eczema but the others have no liver damage. We are just waiting for more results. And then in the midst of all this, one of the bigger girls bowled over one of the babies and broke its leg. It was Fluttershy, a beautiful double Parsifal cria who had already had a scrape with death by falling in a trough just after being born. Of course it was a Sunday so to avoid an emergency call out we popped her in the Captiva and headed to the vet on call. It was bad news and so we had to say goodbye. With the entire family in tow I was very grateful for a Catholic education as the girls had a quick discussion about her getting to see God and Jesus and then asked to watch her be put down. Nine years of farming has definitely toughened me up but watching the poor mum wonder around the paddock trying to find her baby was heartbreaking. On a positive note though, we had a slight frost last night so that should put paid to the facial eczema spores, if there are any. And even if it isn't facial eczema there is a lesson learnt: next year we will go back to doing the spore counts which we did when we first moved onto the property.

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