The regulation of stock movement when buying and selling stock in light of the recent mycoplasma bovis outbreak in the Hawkes Bay region and South Island.

Mycoplasma Bovis (M.bovis) — an overview

M. bovis is a bacterial disease commonly found in cows all over the world.

First detected in New Zealand in July 2017, it has affected a small number of farms in the South Island and Hawkes Bay regions.

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The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) is working hard with farmers to control the disease and if possible eradicate it from New Zealand.

M. bovis causes a range of diseases in cows including mastitis that doesn't respond to treatment, arthritis, pneumonia and late term abortion.

Although the bacterial disease affects cows it poses no risk to food safety or human health.

M.bovis is mainly spread through close and prolonged contact between infected animals, through the movement of stock, contaminated equipment and the feeding of untreated milk to calves.

It is not windborne, it does not spread through streams or rivers and it is a relatively slow-moving disease.

Regulating Stock Movement in New Zealand — Farmer and Stock Owners obligations
M.bovis is an unwanted organism Under the Biosecurity Act 1993.

Anyone in charge of cows must comply with the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) regulations and all animal movements must be recorded.

The NAIT scheme provides for cows to be tagged and registered in a national database which records an animals location, movements, and contact details for the person in charge of that animal. NAIT records link people, property and cows in New Zealand.

The scheme provides traceability and enhances New Zealand's ability to respond quickly to a disease outbreak such as M.bovis.

Animal Status Declarations must be fully completed and retained when moving cows between properties and also when sending animals to slaughter (with the exception of bobby calves).

The outbreak of M.bovis highlights the importance of keeping NAIT records and ensuring Animal Status Declarations are completed and retained.

Restricted Place Notices and Notices of Direction

Under the Biosecurity Act, MPI can issue two types of notices to control stock movement.

Any properties that are believed to have, or are suspected to have M.bovis will be placed under a Restricted Place Notice.

This effectively places them under quarantine lockdown, restricting the movement of stock.

Notice of Directions are issued to farms when an inspector or authorised person considers that the movement of stock poses a risk of spreading M.bovis (for example when animals from infected properties have been moved to a property but testing has not yet taken place or test results are pending).

Buying stock — the importance of having a written agreement in place and working with your lawyer

M.bovis can be difficult to detect, therefore having a written agreement in place when purchasing new cows provides protection for a purchaser and their existing herd.

An agreement places obligations upon a vendor, providing a purchaser with warranties regarding the cows being purchased, such as information about animal health, including disease and treatment history.

An agreement can provide that a purchaser may reject cows as at the date of purchase on the basis that they do not comply with the vendor warranties.

An agreement will also provide a purchaser with the protection that should the vendor breach any of the warranties contained in the agreement, the purchaser can enforce remedies for any loss suffered by them against the vendor.

Conclusion

Farmers and stock owners should always complete their NAIT records and make sure that stock movement is accurately recorded and retained.

When buying or selling stock it is important to enter into a written agreement and to seek legal advice to ensure that adequate protection and remedies are available to both vendor and purchaser.