‘Mycoplasma bovis’ challenges faced

Ben Walling and Sarah Flintoft, who had 1700 cattle culled in 2018. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
Ben Walling and Sarah Flintoft, who had 1700 cattle culled in 2018. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
‘‘One of the greatest biosecurity challenges we’ve ever faced’’ — Mycoplasma bovis continues to affect farmers but the Ministry for Primary Industries is confident eradication of the disease can be achieved.

Southland farm owners Ben Walling and Sarah Flintoft had 1700 cattle culled in 2018 after Mycoplasma bovis was discovered on their farm.

Since then they were declared disease-free, but are now awaiting results after tests on cows at one of their three cattle farms.

The bovine disease Mycoplasma bovis can cause mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and late-term abortions. More than 130,700 cattle have been culled nationwide because of it.

Mr Walling said MPI had responded quickly and professionally this time around.

‘‘These animals turned out to have ... [suspect stock among] them from another infected property that has recently been found.’’

That meant the suspected animals may have been in contact with another infected animal.

A Mycoplasma bovis programme spokesman said in Southland, there was only one property currently active and 25 properties had been cleared.

All farms connected in any way to farms known to have tested positive for the disease were being tested too.

Risk occurred when animals that were moved are not registered on the national animal identification and tracing (Nait) system which records animals moving on and off farms.

‘‘It’s critical that all farmers continue to maintain up-to-date and accurate Nait records.

‘‘Accurate record-keeping helps MPI track animal movements and locate any that could be affected.’’

Farms that are infected, or being tested, are under regulatory controls — they cannot move animals off the property without a permit from MPI.

He said there was evidence Nait compliance was increasing across New Zealand and there was support for farm families affected, which included from the Southland Mycoplasma bovis programme offices.

‘‘Local staff include case managers dedicated to each farm under restrictions, welfare support, and recovery teams to ensure that farming operations get back to business.

‘‘We are confident that together we can achieve eradication, and make sure that everyone can farm free from this disease in the future.’’

He said the arrival of Mycoplasma bovis into New Zealand was one of the greatest biosecurity challenges the country had faced since it arrived in 2015, ‘‘and the M. bovis programme is a world-first attempt to eradicate this insidious cattle disease from our national herd’’.

- Additional reporting from RNZ

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