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Upper South Island: Mycoplasma Bovis (Cows)

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    Posted: March 26 2018 at 5:10am

All cattle on 28 farms to be killed to halt disease

Monday, 26 March 2018

All cattle on properties infected with the Mycoplasma bovis disease will be culled, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed.

"The de-population of entire herds on all 28 Infected Properties (IPs) in New Zealand is a critical measure to control the spread of the disease and we will be working closely with those farmers to plan how this will happen," said MPI's response director Geoff Gwyn.

"This will be a big job and won't happen overnight, but we'll be meeting with the affected farmers in the coming days to discuss the operation, develop the plans and talk through compensation."

Farmers would be compensated for their verifiable losses "as quickly as possible", MPI said.

After the cull, and once farms were cleaned, these farmers could then start re-building a disease-free herd from scratch.

Today's decision follows estimates that Mycoplasma bovis could cost the country $400 million in economic impact over the next decade.

MPI has confirmed "losses to individual farmers would be a big part of that".

The figures were included in documents released to NZME under the Official Information Act.

New Zealand was one of the last nations in the world without the highly contagious cattle disease until the Ministry for Primary Industries was notified about infected cattle in South Canterbury in July last year.

The latest update from MPI stated there were 28 properties in New Zealand where cattle have tested positive for Mycoplasma bovis.

Symptoms of Mycoplasma bovis included mastitis, polyarthritis (infection of several joints), pneumonia, abortions and meningitis and the disease primarily spread by close contact between animals. However, there were no known food safety risks for humans consuming food from infected animals.

One of the documents released under the OIA, dated October 30, 2017, stated: "Initial assessments put the economic impacts of Mycoplasma bovis in the range of $60 million to $400 million over the next ten years, due to uncertainty about how international markets would respond to New Zealand confirming that it has the disease,".

When asked whether economic impacts meant losses or gains, an MPI spokeswoman said in a statement: "Losses to individual farmers would be a big part of that – but economic impacts go much broader. For example the flow-on effects to affected communities, the impact of changing farm practices to reduce disease risk, effects on wider industry (meat and dairy companies), and even potential impacts (if any) to the wider economy."

When asked whether the impact estimates had changed since October, MPI response director Geoff Gwyn said: "We continue to work on assessing the economic impact of Mycoplasma bovis. The extent of the spread of the disease is critical to understanding potential economic impacts and ascertaining the spread is our key focus right now,".

Funding of $85 million for operational and compensation costs for the outbreak response was approved by Cabinet this month.

The funds would be used until a decision was made on whether or not to attempt eradicating the disease.

On July 17, 2017, MPI was informed a herd on a farm owned by the Van Leeuwen Group had severe health problems.

Samples taken from the herd were confirmed positive for Mycoplasma bovis on July 21.

MPI immediately initiated a biosecurity response to contain the disease.

On October 12, MPI decided to cull 4700 animals on seven infected properties.

Since then, MPI has deferred a decision on further culling "until a more thorough picture of the disease's distribution in New Zealand is built".

MPI response director Geoff Gwyn said the decision to cull further animals on affected properties would be made between now and early April.

The documents released under the OIA show "a full eradication would include 14 of the 16 Van Leeuwen Dairy Group farms and could involve up to 18,000 animals".

This month, Minister of Agriculture and Biosecurity Damien O'Connor said a significant piece of work was underway "to look at the technical feasibility of eradication and cost-benefit or eradication versus long-term management".

All but one of the infected properties so far were in the South Island so officials were considering focusing on making the North Island Mycoplasma bovis free.

Last week, O'Connor announced an intensive programme to track cattle movements across Cook Strait.

"Operation Cook Strait will be based where trucks stop in the upper South Island and will be run by the Ministry for Primary Industries. It will check that farmers moving cattle from the South to the North Island comply with their legal obligations under the NAIT Act.

"Non-compliance will result in fines. It begins today and is likely to be extended to other parts of the country."

O'Connor said he remained hopeful Mycoplasma bovis could be eradicated from New Zealand.

"Eradication is what everybody would like but it has to be technically possible, practically achievable and affordable for all. If we can't improve NAIT [National Animal Identification and Tracing scheme] compliance, we cannot get past go."

Gwyn said a small number of beef units were affected but so far "the majority of the infected properties are dairy farms or dairy calf raising businesses".

The dairy industry was New Zealand's largest export earner.

It generated $14.6 billion in export revenue for the year ended June 2017.

Properties infected with Mycoplasma bovis in New Zealand so far:

Canterbury – 2 (1 active)
Hawkes' Bay (near Hastings) – 1
Mid-Canterbury (Ashburton) – 4
South Canterbury/North Otago – 11 (10 active)
Otago (Middlemarch) – 2
Southland (Winton, Lumsden, Invercargill, Gore) – 10


Absence of proof is not proof of absence.
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