Cattle in a dairy herd in the Awanui area north of Kaitaia
have been found to be infected with bovine tuberculosis.
The infection - a major blip in the region's long TB-free
status - has brought a quick response from the Animal Health
Board (AHB), which has clamped movement controls on animals
in the herd and is testing neighbouring herds.
Cows identified with TB in the infected herd have been
withdrawn from milking.
While drinking raw milk from the rest of the herd could
contain an element of risk for humans, the pasteurisation
milk goes through in commercial processing eliminates danger
The AHB has also started annual TB testing for cattle and
deer herds within 10km of the infected property. They were
formerly tested every three years.
Two dairy herds in the same area were diagnosed with TB in
2009, but AHB Northern North Island co-ordinator Frank Pavitt
said yesterday[10/01] diseased animals had been slaughtered
and those herds had since tested clear of infection.
For privacy reasons, he declined to identify the owners of
infected herds or the number of animals infected, saying
there were several possible sources of the latest outbreak.
Checks on wild animals, especially possums and pigs, were
underway to see if bovine TB was present in the surrounding
A significant number of possums and pigs had been caught
around Awanui when the same process was followed after the
2009 TB outbreak, Mr Pavitt said.
While possums were the main source of TB infection in farmed
cattle and deer in New Zealand, they had never been
identified as a cause in Northland.
Other possible causes of infection included buying in
infected cattle, or hunters introducing deer or pigs from
infected areas to provide sport in the North.
The AHB together with the Northland Regional Council and
Department of Conservation, fund a Northland deer recovery
programme. Its hunters may help locals look for infected
feral animals around Awanui.
TBfree Northland Committee chairman Neil MacMillan said while
the latest Awanui infection was not good news, with the
assistance of the Animal Health Board and local herd owners,
the issue could be dealt with effectively.
Beef and dairy cattle farming are the mainstays of the
Northland economy. The region had 275,070 dairy cows in 930
herds and 465,000 beef cattle in 2011.
- By Mike Barrington of The Northern Advocate