OPINION: There is a lot of noise currently around the cull of infected Mycoplasma bovis cows in New Zealand and this got me thinking while milking this morning.

There is always going to people with differing opinions on whether we should just manage Mycoplasma bovis like the rest of the world or take the opportunity to eradicate this disease from New Zealand.

Within the realms of management we all need to accept that the choices of management for each different herd owner may be very different depending on location and the effects of Mycoplasma bovis on that particular herd.

These choices could be culling the whole herd to doing nothing and that would be each farmer's individual choice depending on their situation. It would then be up to farmers to maintain strict bio security protocols on farms that wish to remain Mycoplasma bovis-free.


I personally feel that all farmers would like to be Mycoplasma bovis-free, so those farmers doing nothing that are infected also need to respect the wishes of those farmers that wish to remain free of the cattle disease.

Listen: Jamie Mackay interviews Federated Farmers' Andrew Hoggard on Mycoplasma bovis eradication.

Within management we all need to accept that there are farmers that are going to be hit hard within the first ten years and there is going to be some horror stories in terms of death rates in calves, high incidence of incurable mastitis and lameness in animals.

If we look to eradication we actually have a very good template to follow. Bovine TB has taught New Zealand a successful way of managing and eradicating disease from cattle herds in this country. Although the job is not quite finished due to infected wildlife reinfecting farm animals, this would not be the case in Mycoplasma bovis.

The scale and the overall success of the bovine TB test and slaughter approach must also be pointed out here. TB peaked in 1994 with just over 1700 infected herds and currently we are sitting around 30 herds.

On today's numbers, with expected herds going infected with Mycoplasma bovis, there is less than half the amount of herds infected with M bovis than the peak number of TB herds.

There is one key thing that actually makes M bovis easier to contain than TB and that is it's only spread cattle to cattle.

Testing in both situations is about as accurate. If you say there is no food safety risk with M bovis, there is no food safety risk with TB - if you cook meat properly and pasteurise milk. But as a country will still choose to eradicate.

Overall New Zealand has a big decision to make about this disease - short term pain for potential long term gain or long term pain.


I would hate to be discussing this issue in 10 years and in hindsight thinking we shouldn't have kill all those cows or why did we stop culling them.

- Andrew Wiffen is a West Coast dairy farmer and a finalist in the 2018 FMG Young Farmer of the Year Contest.