Tuesday, June 18, 2024

MPI to cull infected Ashburton cattle

The Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) eradication programme is targeting the sole pocket of a confirmed infection in Canterbury, with cows on the infected feedlot near Ashburton to be culled.

The infected Five Star Beef feedlot, owned by ANZCO Foods, farms about 14,000 cattle.

Eight farms in the high-risk area will be depopulated, the Ministry said today, while six farms in the at-risk area will undergo increased testing.

While on-site, MPI officers will also introduce strict new biosecurity measures for the surrounding area, said programme director, Simon Andrew. 

“Our nationwide testing programme tells us that M. bovis infection is currently believed to be isolated to a small area in mid-Canterbury, where there are infected properties, including the feedlot,” said Mr Andrew.

“We are working hard to investigate the exact transmission route, but at present that remains unclear.  

“Without a precise understanding of why this is happening, we need to take a different approach to protect cattle and farmers in the area.  

“We acknowledge the role local farmers have played in helping us continue to better understand the situation, and to bolster this, we are bringing in extra technical advice,” Mr Andrew says. 

He said the Ministry was committed to hunting down the last remaining infections.

“There’s been 275 confirmed properties to date out of 30,000-plus farms in New Zealand.” 

Mr Andrew says the M. bovis Programme, alongside industry partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, will:

  • Work with the feedlot’s owners, ANZCO, to start progressive depopulation of the property from October 13;
  • To coincide with that depopulation, a Controlled Area Notice (CAN) will be introduced for the Wakanui area, affecting 14 cattle farms (3 of these properties are owned by ANZCO). The CAN map is available on the Mycoplasma bovis website;
  • As part of the CAN, all properties in the high-risk area will be depopulated by mid-January 2023;
  • A round of testing and census will be carried out for farms in the low-risk area of the CAN.

“The CAN steps up the already tight controls in the area as we think it’s important to take all possible steps to ensure this pocket of infection is contained and the progressive depopulation of the feedlot successful,” Mr Andrew says.  

“As part of the CAN, all properties with cattle in the high-risk area will be depopulated by mid-January 2023, or earlier, followed by a standdown period of two to three months to allow these properties to be cleaned and disinfected.  

The programme partners would work closely with the small number of impacted farmers in the area and compensation would be provided where required, he said.

“We know the CAN will be extremely challenging and disruptive for a small number of farmers in the area and we will support them through this process.” 

“Since the start of the programme, M. bovis has predominantly spread by animal movements and we ask farmers to continue keeping their National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) records up-to-date to protect themselves and others. 

“It’s easy to get complacent, especially with low numbers across the country, but now is the time where we must be more cautious than ever and that’s why we are taking these prudent steps,” said Mr Andrew.

There has been no confirmed infection outside of mid-Canterbury since July 2020 and extensive nationwide surveillance will continue for several years as the Ministry move to the proof of absence phase, he said.

“Our bulk milk test programme is going well, with no unexpected finds in recent months. August 2022 is on track to be the first August since 2018 with no confirmed infection detected via bulk tank milk surveillance.”

“While this is positive, it doesn’t mean the job is done. It is likely that we’ll find more confirmed infection before we declare eradication successful. When we find any infection, we will deal with it.” 

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