The Mycoplasma bovis threat has reached the heart of government dairy science with AgResearch's Ruakura farm issued with a biosecurity restriction order.

In response to a Herald inquiry, Crown institute AgResearch has confirmed its research farm at Ruakura, Hamilton, has been issued a "notice of direction" by the Ministry for Primary Industries, which is overseeing the national biosecurity response to the first diagnosis of the cattle disease in July last year.

An AgResearch spokesperson said the notice of direction related to one animal purchased for finishing in 2016, which was sent for processing last year.

"This animal originated from another farm that MPI is forward tracing from. We have been able to track this movement from our records and NAIT recording we strictly followed."


A notice of direction from MPI is an order to restrict movement of goods, including animals, out of a property.

It is issued by MPI when it is believed movement of livestock and other at-risk goods such as farm equipment poses a risk of spreading M. bovis.

The notice is applied when animals from an M. bovis infected property have moved onto a property which is not yet tested or when results are still pending.

The notice means cattle movement may need a permit and the property may need to be cleansed.

AgResearch's Ruakura operation is a working farm as well as a centre for dairy science research.

The spokesperson said there were about 700 cattle on the farm at present – a mix of dairy grazing cows and beef finishing cattle.

Much of the research was related to reproduction, for example forage trials with the animals grazed on the forage to create a genuine farming context.

The cattle disease which can affect dairy and beef cattle was first identified on an Oamaru dairy farm last July.


It causes painful mastitis in milking cows, respiratory disease, arthritis, and pneumonia in calves, however many cattle can carry the bacterial organism without showing clinical symptoms.

The joint government-farming sector response to the disease outbreak, which is endemic in the herds of New Zealand's trading partners and therefore not a trade issue, has been to continue an eradication drive. This will involve the slaughter of more than 150,000 cattle.

The decision to pursue eradication and the mass cattle cull was announced on May 28.

According to latest MPI figures 37 farm properties have been confirmed as being infected with the disease. Its pathway into New Zealand is unknown and under investigation.

Most of the infected properties are in South Canterbury and Southland, with dairy heartland the Waikato recording one case to date. Hawkes Bay and Manawatu have also recorded one case each.

The disease does not affect humans or milk or meat for human consumption, said MPI.

The cost of the eradication drive is estimated to be $886 million over 10 years, with taxpayers picking up most of the bill for farmer compensation under the Biosecurity Act and loss of production.