Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Kiwi farms get all clear on M.bovis

New Zealand has no farms infected with the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis (M.bovis), Biosecurity and Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor, announced today as the joint Government and primary sector eradication effort moves into its next phase.

The Minister said New Zealand was moving closer to a world-first eradication of the disease. The last known infected property in Mid-Canterbury has been destocked and declared disease-free, taking New Zealand to zero confirmed infections. 

“Five years of hard work, sacrifice, and collaboration with MPI, DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand have brought us to this milestone on the road to eradication,” Mr O’Connor said.

“I want to acknowledge the hardship which affected farmers and families have felt during this time. I also want to thank the broader sector who’ve stepped up their animal tracing efforts, allowing us to move the programme on to a new surveillance phase.

“Allowing M. bovis to become endemic was estimated to come at a cost of $1.3 billion in lost production in the first ten years alone.”

At the height of the programme there was a peak of 40 infected properties across the country.

“And today we have none. While we’ve had brief periods in the past where we had no infections, we still had possible cases being investigated. This is the first time we’ve had no cases and no investigations,” the Minister said.

“In 2018 we announced the bold decision with our partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand to be the first in the world to eradicate M. bovis from New Zealand to protect our national herd, Kiwi farming businesses, and our record export growth.

“Looking at what we have achieved together over the last five years, I am confident we made the right decision. We always knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially for the farmers affected, but when you looked at the impact that living with M. bovis has on animal welfare and on farmers, we knew we had to try.

“We can’t say yet that we’ve reached eradication as we may still detect new cases in the future, however with no confirmed infection from our background surveillance since April 2022, we can be confident that we are moving in the right direction.”

Mr O’Connor said all indicators – from our bulk milk testing to beef herd surveillance – gives the Government confidence that its 10-year programme is working.

“Being the first in the world to attempt to eradication, we have built a playbook over the last five years with immense effort from everyone involved.”

“With almost 184,000 cattle culled, including 280 farms depopulated, nearly 3,000 farms subject to movement controls and many more undergoing on-farm testing, the programme has touched nearly every farming community across the country.”

Mr O’Connor said the focus now was on next steps for the M. bovis programme with a move to a national pest management plan (NPMP) – similar to what is used for Bovine Tuberculosis control.

“As New Zealand becomes clear of active M. bovis infection and work centres on background surveillance, the time is right to transition to a new model to continue to build our farming sector’s resilience and strengthen the biosecurity system.”

“OSPRI has been nominated as the management agency and is well-placed to manage M. bovis. We’ll be consulting with farmers and the public about the exact shape of the NPMP later this month.

“We’re only as good as our detection systems and our on-farm records. It’s vital that we all stay vigilant and diligent so that the herds sacrificed and the emotional hardship of affected farmers wasn’t all for nothing,” he said.

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