Bid to assess 'M. bovis' scheme surge

An independent report has been commissioned into the cause and effects of the current surge in the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme and to identify additional immediate improvements.

Last month, the Ministry for Primary Industries announced the programme was increasing activity before autumn and winter stock movements.

About 300 farmers would be contacted as a priority and it was expected 250 of those would have notice-of-direction movement controls placed on them immediately and, following testing, that 10% to 12% might become confirmed properties.

About two-thirds of the properties were beef farms and the remainder dairy.

A joint update to farmers on changes to the eradication programme has been sent to farmers by the MPI, Beef + Lamb New Zealand and DairyNZ.

The update said it was unfortunate there was a backlog of farmers who needed to be contacted and possibly placed under movement restrictions, especially at this time of the year.

The situation was disappointing and the three entities understood the pressure it put on affected farmers. The priority was to contact the high-risk properties as soon as possible.

At a meeting last week with Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor, a plan was agreed on to strengthen, update and better resource the M. bovis programme.

A team of more than 30 staff had been established to resource calls to farmers. As of last Friday, 111 of the 300 high-risk farms had been contacted and 56 notices of direction triggered.

Management and oversight of the response focus were being changed. Those changes would strengthen the MPI's work at a regional level, starting with Canterbury, the update said.

There would also be an increased focus on working with industry partners and key groups, including Federated Farmers.

An independent industry expert had been commissioned, alongside the MPI's chief science adviser, to deliver the report on the current surge and the findings would be shared with farmers.

The Technical Advisory Group would be reconvened ahead of its planned midyear review to review the programme, particularly in light of the current surge - "and reassure us that the programme remains on track towards eradication''.

Kelvan Smith had been appointed as independent chairman of the governance group to improve oversight and decision-making.

Last week, Ashburton Mayor Donna Favel announced a group of representatives from the local agricultural and health industries had been formed to help address potential and ongoing concerns regarding M. bovis in the Ashburton district.

The group's objective was to help facilitate discussions between the MPI and relevant organisations "to ensure information is consistently shared in a timely and targeted manner with the district's farming community''.

Mrs Favel was joined by representatives from the MPI, Federated Farmers, DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Rural Support Trust Mid Canterbury, Vet Ent and Ashburton Hospital.

"M. bovis has inflicted a great deal of stress and uncertainty for our people, and we each recognised that something more needed to be done to help support our farmers during this time of need,'' she said.

Ashburton was the district most affected by the disease, she said.


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