Farmers will soon be able to test for cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis thanks to a new diagnostic tool being developed.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said moves to create a better commercial tool for farmers started when the disease was discovered in New Zealand last year.

Last month, the ministry directed that more than 20,000 cattle at 28 infected properties be culled.

Compensation claims from farmers had reached just under $6 million and about $2.5m has been paid out so far.

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The tool is being developed in collaboration with commercial laboratories, industry members and MPI.

A release date has yet to be revealed, but it will only be made available once sampling guidelines, testing strategy and maybe an accreditation programme has been made so as to ensure a test is accurately applied and interpreted.

MPI's response director Geoff Gwyn said: "While testing options and solutions are becoming available, we have identified that interpreting a one-off test result even at the herd level, in isolation to other factors, is challenging and carries inherent risk to farmers.

"The tests currently available will lead to a significant number of farms being falsely identified as positive and farms that may be real positives being missed.

"That's why we are developing robust processes...''

The test programme includes members from the following industry members or associations: NZ Veterinary Association, Beef & Lamb NZ, Dairy Companies Association of NZ, Federated Farmers, AsureQuality, MilkTest NZ, Livestock Improvement Corporation, NZ Veterinary Pathology, SVS Laboratories and Gribbles Veterinary Pathology.

NZVA's chief veterinary officer Helen Beattie said everyone involved was acutely aware of the need for a robust on-farm solution to the M. bovis situation.

"All parties are working urgently on developing this tool and all the elements needed to support it.''