M. Bovis eradication plan

The Government has decided to attempt eradication of Mycoplasma bovis at an estimated cost of $886m over ten years.


Plan to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis

Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to attempt the eradication of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand to protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor say we have one shot at eradicating a disease that causes painful, untreatable illness in cattle.

The decision was taken collectively by Government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of the disease, the potential spread and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.

“Today’s decision to eradicate is driven by the Government’s desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy – the farming sector,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve worked hard to get the information to make this call and I know the past 10 months have been hugely uncertain for our beef and dairy farmers.

“Speaking with affected farmers in recent weeks it is obvious that this has taken a toll, but standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers.

“This is a tough call – no-one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now.

“Today’s decision will provide some certainty, but at the same time will be terribly painful for those farmers who are directly affected. Both Government and our industry partners want those farmers to know support is there for them.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the farming sector to ensure its long-term success. Today’s move reflects how important the success of the dairy and beef industries is to the prosperity of all New Zealanders,” Jacinda Ardern said.

All decision-makers acknowledge that eradication of Mycoplasma bovis – which is possible because it is not widespread, infected properties are all connected through animal movements and there is just one strain of the disease out there – will be challenging and require collaboration.

Damien O’Connor said it was important all farmers showed a collective responsibility for the sake of the wider sector and get on-board with the eradication operation.

“We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it. It’s the only chance we’ll get.

“It won’t work without farmer support. In particular farmers need to be meticulous with animal movement records and the way they use NAIT. We have already begun improvements to make it easier to use

“I’ve also asked MPI to revisit the compensation process and they’ve developed a new streamlined approach for those whose animals are culled to enable a substantial payment within a matter of days.

“Farmer welfare is crucial and I’d like to thank the Rural Support Trusts for the work they’re doing. With this decision we know more help is needed and the Government and industry groups are committed to helping farmers through this stressful time.

“Mycoplasma bovis is a difficult disease to diagnose and to control. For this reason, it is possible that at some stage we may have to let the fight go and learn to manage it in our herds.

“We have a set of reassessment measures that, if met, would prompt us to re-evaluate the plan. These include finding the disease is more widespread than our surveillance and modelling anticipates or a property is found that pre-dates the earliest known infection of December 2015.

“Spring testing this year will give us the opportunity to reassess the feasibility of eradication when results are in come February, as Mycoplasma bovis is at its most detectable after calving,” said Damien O’Connor.

Eradication will involve:

  • Culling all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties
  • All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated
  • Following depopulation, farms are disinfected and will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked
  • Intensive active surveillance, including testing and tracing, will continue to detect infected herds
  • There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses
  • An improved compensation claim process. MPI says a substantial part of a farmer’s claim for culled cows should now take 4-10 days, with a fully verified claim taking 2-3 weeks.

The full cost of phased eradication over 10 years is projected at $886 million. Of this, $16 million is loss of production and is borne by farmers and $870 million is the cost of the response (including compensation to farmers). We expect to do most of the eradication work in 1-2 years.

Government will meet 68 per cent of this cost and DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand will meet 32 per cent.

The alternative option was for long-term management. This was projected at $1.2 billion. Of this, $698 million is the loss of production borne by farmers and $520 million of response costs.

To not act at all is estimated to cost the industry $1.3 billion in lost production over 10 years, with ongoing productivity losses across our farming sector.

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.