Good on-farm biosecurity and accurate tracing of animal movement is not an option in today's world — it's an imperative, according to Federated Farmers president Katie Milne.
Positive tests for Mycoplasma bovis in herds in Hastings and Winton, and a suspected case in Ashburton, further underlined the need for farmers to treat biosecurity measures on their own properties as a top priority, she said.
The federation and other industry leaders remained committed to eradicating Mycoplasma bovis, but news that it had reached the North Island made that a bigger, if by no means impossible challenge.
"Don't rely on others to protect your patch. Protect it yourself. In the end, we are all biosecurity officers with a role to play," Ms Milne said.
Establishing a 1.5m buffer along fence lines with neighbouring properties should be standard practice, she added. Where practical that could be a vegetation buffer, which would deliver biosecurity and biodiversity benefits.
Close and repeated contact with an infected animal was still regarded as the most likely way Mycoplasma bovis was spread.
As one farmer had said at a recent meeting, "Losing some grazing is a small cost compared to losing your herd."
Visiting vets and AI technicians should thoroughly clean their equipment before they arrive, and again before they leave. Ms Milne said farmers should provide hot water and disinfectant for their hands and equipment, and consider making a footbath and a scrubbing brush handy for the boots of everyone who goes on to and leaves the farm.
"Think about your own actions too. If you're visiting a neighbour, clean your boots and any gear you might bring," she said.
"Make sure your NAIT records are right up to date, giving special attention to recording stock movements. One hundred per cent compliance with traceability requirements (NAIT and Animal Status Declaration — ASD) is not only vital for biosecurity but increasingly important as we sell our high-quality product to discerning customers."
Where practical, cattle movements on to farms should be limited. Mycoplasma bovis could be present in apparently healthy animals, and there was currently no sufficiently reliable pre-movement test that could detect latent or hidden infection.
Farmers with leased/loaned terminal bulls might need to think about sending them straight to slaughter. That may well mean a change in practice, but it was well worth thinking about and discussing with the bull's owner.
"Federated Farmers does not know who the newly-affected farmers are, as their privacy is important, but we certainly extend our best wishes to them in what will be a stressful time, and we will continue to work closely with MPI and other sector groups on this sensitive and vital issue," Ms Milne said.
"Federated Farmers has been helping affected farmers where we can and as we are asked. I encourage any of the new farmers to contact us or their local Rural Support Trust if they have any questions or want assistance."
Other biosecurity measures farmers can take can be found at http://www.mpi.govt.nz/protection-and-response/responding/alerts/mycoplasma-bovis/