Comment: Ministry for Primary Industries regional manager, M. bovis, Peter Bodeker remains confident the cattle disease can be eradicated from New Zealand.

July marks two years since Mycoplasma bovis was first detected in New Zealand, kicking off the largest biosecurity response we've ever seen.

Along with the entire country, Otago has been affected - facing immense challenges in dealing with this disease, and the ongoing effort to eradicate it.

There have been 27 Confirmed Properties in the Otago district - as at the first half of July four are still under restrictions.


Thirty-two properties in the region under a NOD (Notice of Direction) restricting movements, and 102 under Active Surveillance.

Nationally, there have been 179 Confirmed Properties in total, and 108,182 cattle slaughtered.

The decision to eradicate by the Cabinet and industry, and supported by Federated Farmers, the Meat Industry Association, DCANZ and a range of other industry organisations, was a tough call, but we believe the right one for the long-term interests of New Zealand farmers.

The impacts of allowing M.bovis to spread throughout New Zealand were clear: $1.3 billion in lost productivity in the first 10 years, insidious animal welfare issues, and needing to make major and difficult changes to our approach to cattle farming.

However, the challenge of eradicating this disease was immense.

There was no playbook to work from; designing an eradication programme while implementing it has been a challenge, and the impact on affected farmers can't be underestimated.

Ministry for Primary Industries regional manager, M.Bovis, Peter Bodeker. Photo / Supplied
Ministry for Primary Industries regional manager, M.Bovis, Peter Bodeker. Photo / Supplied

The two reviews into what caused the backlog of ''traces'' (animal movements off Confirmed Properties) before Moving Day have given us concrete ways that we can improve our systems and process, and achieve eradication more effectively.

We are sorry for the impact that the surge had on those farmers affected, and now we're focused on getting testing completed and decisions made so they can get back to farming free from restrictions as soon as possible.


As recommended by the reviews, we're also focused on getting decision-making power into the regions, to make sure that our people on the ground can make quick decisions to deal with the challenges in front of them.

The Waimate-Waitaki Mycoplasma Bovis Advisory Group, jointly chaired by the local mayors, is also a positive step forward.

It is there to bring together regional leaders who can take on-the-ground steps to support affected farmers.

Farmers with concerns about their situation can bring them to this forum for them to be discussed, and solutions found.

The new Federated Farmers farm assistance teams are also due to hit the ground, providing support and advice to farms under Active Surveillance.

These farms have an exceptionally low risk of having been exposed to M.bovis, but they do need to be tested to check.

Although they're not under controls, it is still a stressful and challenging time, and it's excellent to see rural people stepping in to help support them.

The genetic analysis of the bacterium that we've found so far indicates that it all comes from a single strain, introduced in late 2015, early 2016.

M.bovis is not widespread, it is a slow-spreading disease, and we are confident that we can eradicate it.

M.bovis is a horrible affliction for animals, and it takes an enormous personal toll on those 179 farmers and their families who care for them.

For the entire sector, it's important we take the necessary steps to stop this disease spreading, and ultimately eradicate it from New Zealand.

- Peter Bodeker is the Ministry for Primary Industries regional manager, M.Bovis.