Mycoplasma bovis a growing and spreading problem

The introduction and spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis may go back further and have spread more than has been publicly known.

ODT: Timely information important

The spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is wider than expected and there are indications the number of infected farms will continue to grow.

This is proving one of the most difficult periods for dairy farmers, faced with uncertainty about the future of their herds.

New information suggests the disease was in New Zealand up to three years before the official announcement it had been found in South Canterbury.

All sorts of excuses are being made. The facts are someone is responsible for this disease. No-one knows who yet, and it has become a problem for those left wondering.

About 11,000 cows of a possible 22,000 have been slaughtered to stop the spread through the national herd, the animals destroyed along with the income of the owners of those cows. Farmers are not immune to the pain of seeing productive animals slaughtered because of a disease which will continue spreading, in all likelihood.

Talk has switched from eradication to containment. It seems that is the best that can be offered.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor blames the previous government for not being vigilant enough in the way the national animal tracing system (Nait) was enforced.

The previous National-led government’s inaction, lack of enforcement and promotion of Nait has created major issues for hunting down Mycoplasma bovis. Mr O’Connor is promising changes.

Some serious facts are emerging. Farmers may have been selling infected calves to others in the dairy industry, not alerting authorities to the sale and thereby creating an underground path of infection.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor:


Mycoplasma bovis update

  • Farming leaders and Government discuss next steps
  • $307,000 for Rural Support Trusts
  • $7.8 million for animal feed
  • We will fix NAIT alongside the farming industry

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says a top-level meeting with farming leaders about Mycoplasma bovis focused on helping farmers through the next few weeks.

“We all committed to make a decision about the next steps in the M.bovis response within the next couple of weeks. We talked about phased eradication and long-term management.

“It is a difficult choice that we will make together once we receive more advice from the Technical Advisory Group in the coming days.

“Farmer welfare is paramount to all of us. We are committed to helping farmers on the ground who are caught in the M.bovis response.

“We’ve given $307,000 to Rural Support Trusts to help farmers. And there is $7.8 million of funding that has been committed to help those struggling with feed issues.

“Over the next few weeks farmers who are not under controls are allowed to move stock, but they must adhere to their legal National Animal Identification and Tracing requirements and record animal movements.

“If you are concerned about moving your stock then be prudent, seek advice from your industry groups and MPI. The same goes for sourcing feed.’’

DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle says that this has been a tough road for farmers.

“It’s simply devastating to find out you have this disease on your farm and know what it could mean for your animals. The government and sector groups are working closely, putting our farmers and animals at the forefront of our thinking.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says: “We have huge sympathy for the affected farmers and their families. The government and industry are working extremely hard to bring some certainty. For B+LNZ, our focus is on getting a clear direction for the future of the response as soon as possible, and learning everything we can to avoid our farmers going through this again.”

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says we are all in this together.

“Feds is totally committed to working with government and the other industry bodies to get to the right outcome – whatever that looks like.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to figure out what is the best way forward.”

Mr O’Connor says the Government and farming groups are committed to improving the NAIT system.

“It hasn’t worked as well as it should have. I know farmers are keen to improve it and I’ll work alongside them to achieve that.

“We realise that compensation is a major source of concern for farmers. DairyNZ has recently committed 10 additional staff to advise farmers on preparing their compensation claims – recognising that the more complete a claim is when it’s lodged, the faster MPI can turn it around.

“In addition, MPI has committed that farmers whose animals are being culled due to presence of the infection, will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged,” says Damien O’Connor.

B+LNZ has committed additional funding for the Rural Support Trusts to help drystock farmers through the compensation process, and employed additional resource to work with farmers on M.bovis and wider biosecurity management.

Mr O’Connor again met with leaders from DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Fonterra and the Meat Industry Association this afternoon.