This article is an update to the article written earlier this year in relation to Mycoplasma bovis.

On May 28 the Government announced that an attempt will be made to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand.

This means Government, along with MPI and other dairy and beef sector partners, will attempt to completely get rid of Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand's dairy and beef herds. It is expected most of the eradication work will take one to two years.

At that date, from the 20,000 farms in New Zealand, 36 farms were infected and a further 260 were suspect farms.

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At this stage the disease is not widespread.

What is Mycoplasma bovis?

Mycoplasma bovis is a bacterial disease commonly found in cows all over the world. First detected in New Zealand in July 2017, it has affected farms in the South Island, Hawkes Bay and most recently in the Waikato and Wairarapa.

Mycoplasma 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.

Mycoplasma 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.

What powers do MPI have under the Biosecurity Act 1993?

Under the Biosecurity Act, MPI has the power to issue two types of legal notices:

1. Restricted Place Notice

Any properties that are believed to have, or are suspected to have Mycoplasma bovis will be placed under a Restricted Place Notice. This effectively places them under quarantine lockdown, prohibiting the movement of stock on or off the property. Any movement requires a permit from MPI.

2. Notice of Direction

A Notice of Direction is issued to a farm when an inspector or authorised person considers that the movement of stock from a farm poses a risk of spreading Mycoplasma 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).

Notices of Direction don't restrict the movement of stock or goods onto the farm but, stock can only be moved off the farm with a permit.

The eradication process — what is involved?

• The decision has been made to cull all cows on infected farms and future infected farms.

• It is anticipated that some 126,000 cows will need to be culled in addition to the 26,000 cull already underway.

• There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses.

• Once animals have been culled, farms will be disinfected and will need to lie fallow for 60 days, after which they can then be restocked.

• MPI will continue to trace all potentially affected cows, and test and cull herds with infected animals in them. This tracing, testing and culling will continue until ongoing regular surveillance finds no remaining evidence of Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand.

Compensation

Farmers who are directed to have animals culled or their farming operations restricted will be eligible for compensation.

MPI have announced that the compensation claim process will be fast-tracked and MPI have indicated that a substantial part of a farmers compensation claim for culled cows should take 4-10 days, with a fully verified claim taking two to three weeks.

How farmers can support eradication?

• Look for signs of the disease and report to your vet, MPI and other farm advisors

• Ensure that NAIT records are accurate and up-to-date.

• Adopt and practice good on-farm biosecurity measures.

• If in doubt, seek advice from your farming advisors.