New Zealand's TB free programme is reducing testing requirements for cattle and deer herds in a few areas of the North Island. The changes became effective from March 1.

OSPRI's TBfree programme divides the country into a number of disease control areas.

Each has different TB testing requirements and control measures depending on the level of risk of TB being transferred from infected wildlife (mainly possums) to cattle and deer. Intense TB testing, movement control and both ground and aerial pest control are used to stop the spread of TB.

As OSPRI's work proves successful in each area, disease control areas (DCA) are redefined and testing frequency reduced. So far OSPRI's TBfree programme has eradicated TB from 1.83 million hectares — with 7.9 million hectares of Vector Risk Area left to be eradicated.

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Infected herds have been brought down to around 50 — a huge decrease from nearly 1700 in 1994.

"My main touchpoint with TBfree is having pest bait stations and possum control following aerial 1080 programmes on neighbouring bush country."

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A revised plan for tackling TB was launched during 2016. The plan's goals include eradicating TB from New Zealand, with TB freedom from cattle and deer herds by 2026, TB freedom from possums by 2040, and biological eradication by 2055. In order to achieve that, changes to TB testing and pest control will be phased in.

This year's DCA changes affect more than 315,000 hectares, and mean 1029 cattle and deer herds will face less testing, saving more than 32,000 TB tests.

FARMER CASE STUDY:
TB-free future one step closer

Stuart Robbie of Otapawa Station in the Manawatu will need to TB test his beef cattle once every three years, instead of every two, saving costly musters each year.

Stuart farms beef cattle and sheep at Tiraumea in the foothills of the Puketoi Range between Eketahuna and the North Island's east coast — 3500 hectares of medium-to-steep hill country, with some easier country on the lowland.

"My family has been here 122 years, since my great-grandfather settled here at 17 years old," Stuart explains.

"We run about 220 stud Hereford breeding cows, and a further 500 commercial cows with a total of 2000 beef cattle. We finish 300 Friesian bulls and 100-120 Hereford steers, and a few other finishing cows as well.

"My main touchpoint with TBfree is having pest bait stations and possum control following aerial 1080 programmes on neighbouring bush country.

"The TB testing involves the whole herd in split sessions — four days of mob movements to and from the yards each session.

Clearly, labour is the big cost there. To extend the testing period to three-yearly greatly reduces the herd movements, and in late autumn early winter — when it's not ideal to have cattle tramping through the mud — that's a great bonus.

"The programme has been hugely effective in this region at reducing possum numbers and reducing the number of infections on properties to nil.

"That gives cattle farmers the confidence to carry on and maintain numbers," he says.

To find out how you and your farm are affected, visit ospri.co.nz/dcamap