Govt announces plan to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis

The Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to attempt to rid the country of Mycoplasma bovis to protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.

The decision was taken collectively by Government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of the disease, the potential spread and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.

The full cost of phased eradication over 10 years is projected at $886 million.

Of this, $16 million is loss of production and is borne by farmers and $870 million is the cost of the response including compensation to farmers.

The Government expects to do most of the eradication work in one to two years.

The Government will meet 68 per cent of this cost and DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand will meet 32 per cent.

“This is a tough call – no-one ever wants to see mass culls,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now.”

Both the Government and its industry partners wanted farmers whose stock would be killed to know support is there for them.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor said it was important all farmers supported the eradication operation.

“In particular farmers need to be meticulous with animal movement records and the way they use NAIT,” he said.

“We have already begun improvements to make it easier to use.”

Mr O’Connor acknowledged Mycoplasma bovis is a difficult disease to diagnose and to control.

“For this reason, it is possible that at some stage we may have to let the fight go and learn to manage it in our herds.

“We have a set of reassessment measures that, if met, would prompt us to re-evaluate the plan. These include finding the disease is more widespread than our surveillance and modelling anticipates or a property is found that pre-dates the earliest known infection of December 2015.”

Spring testing this year would give an opportunity to reassess the feasibility of eradication when results are received in February, because  Mycoplasma bovis is at its most detectable after calving.,” said Damien O’Connor.

Eradication will involve:

  • Culling all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties
  • All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated
  • Following depopulation, farms are disinfected and will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked
  • Intensive active surveillance, including testing and tracing, will continue to detect infected herds
  • There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses
  • An improved compensation claim process. MPI says a substantial part of a farmer’s claim for culled cows should now take 4-10 days, with a fully verified claim taking 2-3 weeks.

To take no action is estimated to cost the industry $1.3 billion in lost production over 10 years, with ongoing productivity losses across our farming sector.

Source: Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog

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