Every dairy farm in New Zealand will go through six rounds of testing in the fight against Mycoplasma bovis, but for beef cattle the process is more difficult.

As a result the Ministry for Primary Industries is launching a nationwide programme to start testing at 200 calf-rearing operations.

MPI's Director of Response for M. bovis, Geoff Gwyn told The Country's Jamie Mackay that the test is relatively easy.

"It's a simple test. It's just a nasal swab which will give some indication of what's potentially entering the beef sector."

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Gwyn points out that the calf-rearers have been specifically chosen because they have nothing to do with the response so far.

"We're not anticipating finding a lot but it might give us some better sense of what is going into the beef herds."

Spring milk testing is underway with some encouraging results, says Gwyn.

Of around 12,000 dairy farms in New Zealand, about 11,000 have had at least two rounds of testing and "to date we've only found three farms which are already part of our tracing programme, and they have links to the network ... it's definitely a positive result so far."

Although nationally the Mycoplasma bovis response is "heading in the right direction," Gwyn acknowledges that on a personal level, dealing with the cattle disease is still a "terrible time."

"We're starting to get in some areas a bit of a trend where we're actually lifting more controls than we're putting on which I think is encouraging, but it's a bit too early to pop the champagne cork."

Also in today's interview: Geoff Gwyn talks about farmer compensation.