COMMENT:

On behalf of the entire Mycoplasma bovis programme, we want to assure everyone who calls Northland home that we are doing everything we can to support local farmers, while we do our best to eradicate the disease from the region, and the country.

We've had a longstanding presence in Northland, but recently M. bovis has become more prevalent in the region, as we've found more infected properties, and properties at risk, which is why we've deployed more staff across Northland over the past couple of months.

Eradicating M. bovis from New Zealand is vital to the cattle sectors. Letting this disease spread could cause $1.3 billion in lost productivity over the first 10 years alone, as well as the insidious impacts on animal welfare, and force us to make fundamental changes to our approach to cattle farming.

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Each region has dedicated staff, including incident control point (ICP) managers, recovery and welfare staff, sampling teams, and support from DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb, and the Rural Support Trusts, all of whom are doing their part to reduce M. bovis' impacts.

As of September 6, Northland has had a total of 15 confirmed properties. Nine of these properties are now classified as cleared confirmed properties, and six are currently active confirmed properties.

Understanding, and being able to respond appropriately to the needs of specific needs of locals is a key part of the eradication process. We are working hard to make sure that our regional staff have the ability and authority to make the right decisions on the ground, to prevent M. bovis from spreading, and to support affected farmers.

We are also constantly working to improve our approach to eradication, including recent changes to on-farm sampling procedures. Most farms under active surveillance will now only have to muster animals for one round of sampling, which will reduce the impact of on-farming testing on their operations.

In the end, many beef farmers will have to wait half as long to have an all clear, and get back to business as usual. For some, this will mean a reduction of up to five weeks of waiting to get a result, which is a great step forward.

Finally, we want to remind farmers who have incurred a loss as a direct result of the M. bovis response that they may be eligible for compensation. Information about compensation can be found on the MPI website.

On behalf of the entire M. bovis programme, we want to thank everyone who attended our recent public meeting in Whangārei to learn more about our efforts in Northland, and to tell us in frank terms about the issues and challenges they face on a daily basis.

The meeting was a valuable opportunity for us to listen, to acknowledge these challenges, to learn what's working and, more importantly, to take on board suggestions for how we can improve.

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• Vanessa Coull is the M. bovis programme's northern regional manager