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A national beef survey is starting this month as part of the programme to eradicate cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.
The project is being undertaken by Beef + Lamb New Zealand, DairyNZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
The organisations said while they were confident M. bovis was not widespread in beef-breeding or stud herds, it was important to carry out the survey to make sure.
So far, 118 beef properties have tested positive for the disease. Almost all of them had involved movements or contact with dairy cattle, rather than traditional beef herds or studs.
Herds from about 2500 farms with no connection to M. bovis would be tested to see if the disease was present outside high-risk farms.
‘‘To minimise disruption to farming operations, samples will be taken from beef cattle at the same time as they are screened for Tb,’’ the organisations said.
‘‘This is the most efficient and cost-effective way of gathering the information, as farmers won’t be required to muster animals for separate testing.’’
Farmers would be told when testing would take place.
Between 50 and 220 animals would be sampled from each herd by AsureQuality staff.
If results showed there was a possible M. bovis infection and more testing was needed, farmers should be contacted within three weeks.
Results would likely be provided through Nait (National Animal Identification and Tracing) in the future.
The ministry and industry-good bodies said there was still a risk of infection arriving at farms and all farmers should continue to take biosecurity precautions.
That included full Nait compliance — tagging every animal, registering it into the system and recording every movement.
The ministry’s weekly update on the M. bovis outbreak on January 17 said the process was changing for when cattle from a property known to be infected had been on a farm but were no longer there.
If the cattle they were in contact with were still on the farm, the farm would be placed under movement restrictions while tests were conducted.
‘‘This change is to ensure that the risk is contained, until the infection status of the cattle is confirmed,’’ the update said.