'M. bovis' action group vying for national award

A group set up to help farmers stave off Mycoplasma bovis is vying for a national award.

Morven dairy farmer Hugh Le Fleming and Veterinary Centre Oamaru created the Morven Action Group to find pragmatic ways for farmers to safeguard their livestock from the bacterial cattle disease. It was discovered for the first time in New Zealand on a Morven dairy farm in July last year.

The vets and farmers sought best practice information, from which they compiled a ''Top 11 Checklist and Biosecurity Action Plan''.

It could be used for other potential biosecurity incursions as well as M. bovis.

The group shared the plan with the region's farmers, and with others further afield at meetings and conferences.

The Morven Action Group is now one of three finalists for the Ministry for Primary Industries' Government Industry Agreement Industry Award - one of seven categories in this year's New Zealand Biosecurity Awards.

The other finalists in the category are Kiwifruit Vine Health, a biosecurity organisation that led the response to the PSA incursion, and Independent Verification Services Ltd, which devised a system for importers of low-risk sea containers that resulted in a measurable drop in contamination.

Mr Le Fleming said he was ''far too busy'' to celebrate becoming a finalist when he found out earlier this month, but would be at the dinner in Auckland on November 12 when the award winners would be announced.

He said a lot of work had gone into the group. Its first goal was to ''stop the blame game'' and work with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The second was to show farmers how they could protect their animals and businesses through sound biosecurity measures such as fencing, stock management and hygiene.

Mr Le Fleming said he was instrumental in writing the checklist and action plan in language that could be understood by farmers.

The third goal was to look after farmers' wellbeing - especially those who had their herds culled.

''This has had a huge impact on people's lives.

''Compensation needs to be done properly, because these people have sacrificed their beloved herds for all farmers in New Zealand.

''Every farmer who had their herd euthanised has taken a hit for everyone else.

''They made the ultimate sacrifice.''

Some of the cattle had been with families for more than one generation, and were from bloodlines that went back even further, he said.

M. bovis was ''tricky'', Mr Le Fleming said.

''Most diseases are like rust - you can see them. M. bovis is like metal fatigue.''


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