Cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis continues to spread through New Zealand with a farm in Cambridge the latest to test positive.

The Ministry for Primary Industries biosecurity business unit, Biosecurity New Zealand, confirmed the news today.

The Waikato region dairy farm was identified through the tracing of cattle movements from infected properties and has been put through an exhaustive testing process to achieve a reliable result.

The farm is under strict controls preventing the movement of animals and other risk goods on and off the property.

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Biosecurity New Zealand's Director, Response, Geoff Gwyn says it was very disappointing to find the disease in another of New Zealand's key dairying regions.

"It was, however, not a huge surprise, given the sheer number of farms we are uncovering that have received cows and calves from affected farms," Gwyn said.

"It's a reality of New Zealand's farming system that large numbers of animals are sold and moved across big distances. This response is serving to underline just how much movement takes place and it is this, coupled with poor record keeping through NAIT that is making our job very challenging."

The new Cambridge positive takes the number of infected properties across the country to 39.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said MPI was working hard on containment plans.

"This Government [is] having to pick up the pieces of neglect and underinvestment, it's shameful."

The disease posed no threat to humans but it needed to be brought under control.

Ardern said it was brazen for the issue to be made political given it arose some time ago.

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"We're not giving up on all the options on eradication."

Minister for Agriculture Damien O'Connor was spending "almost 100 per cent" of his time on the issue.

"There was a system in place. It failed abysmally."

At top of mind was the welfare of farmers, Ardern said.

National Party MP for Waikato Tim van de Molen said his thoughts were with the affected farmer.

"He's been open and upfront with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) throughout the process and I commend him for this.

"However, he – like so many others – is frustrated with what he feels is a lack of communication and action from MPI," van de Molen said.

"National has repeatedly called on [Minister for Agriculture] Damien O'Connor to show farmers whose livelihoods have been trashed by this disease some respect by better communicating his plans for the response and ordering his officials to ensure compensation payments are full, fair and fast," he said.

It was important for farmers across the Waikato region to be aware that it has reached the community, "so they need to put precautions in place – I'd encourage them to contact MPI immediately for guidance on procedures and protocols".

MPI said that since the beginning of the response, Biosecurity New Zealand, animal industry bodies, vets and farmers had been intent on identifying new infected farms, containing the disease and keeping all options open to make the best possible decision on how the disease should be managed in future.

MPI's biosecurity business unit, Biosecurity New Zealand, has confirmed that a farm in the Cambridge area has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.
MPI's biosecurity business unit, Biosecurity New Zealand, has confirmed that a farm in the Cambridge area has tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

"Currently many of our people, along with our partners in industry, are putting in big hours to gather the information needed to make such a significant decision – do we attempt to eradicate the disease or move to some form of management over the long term?" Gwyn said.

"It is not an easy decision to make. All options remain on the table, but we are now looking harder at the possibility of having to manage it over the long term," he said.

"A decision is expected by the end of this month. It's taking time because we want to get it right and we are working hard with industry representatives to get us in the best place to make the best decision."

DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand had been a vital part of the disease and cost modelling work that was needed to develop options.

"DairyNZ is also providing support directly to farmers to help them make compensation claims. This is vital, as the quality of the information we receive when a claim is made has a direct bearing on how fast we can turn them around," Gwyn said.

"Along with DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Federated Farmers and the Meat Industry Association have all had intimate involvement in the governance of this response and they continue to make important contributions to it operationally.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says MPI is working hard on containment plans for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis. Photo / Marty Melville.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says MPI is working hard on containment plans for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis. Photo / Marty Melville.

"This is important, as whatever decisions are made later this month around eradication or long-term management, a joined up approach between government and industry organisations will be critical to supporting farmers through it."

Black market cattle sales and lack of compliance with animal tracking rules have undermined the fight against the spread of disease.

Biosecurity officials have said that the unauthorised movements of cattle had made containment difficult and led to the spread of the illness.

The disease, which has already led to the culling of thousands of cows, had spread "beyond all expectation" in just six days.

Biosecurity New Zealand head Roger Smith last week told MPs at a briefing at Parliament that the number of farms under regulatory control for Mycoplasma bovis disease had jumped from 130 properties to 290 over that period.