The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its dairy industry partners have decided to extend the Mycoplasma bovis milk testing in Canterbury, Otago and Southland into a national milk surveillance programme.
While there is no indication that the disease is present beyond the areas currently identified, the ministry says, checking for other possible regional clusters is essential to building a complete picture of the disease in New Zealand.
The programme will involve testing three milk samples from every dairy farm. One sample will be taken from bulk milk as part of the regular sampling process at milk collection.
Farmers will also be required to provide two samples from ‘discard milk’ (milk unsuitable for collection, such as from cows with mastitis). Mycoplasma bovis is more easily identified in milk taken from otherwise sick animals, which makes testing of the discard milk a valuable surveillance tool.
The extended milk testing programme will enhance the existing nationwide Mycoplasma bovis surveillance activity, which includes tracing of animal movements from infected and suspect farms, vets looking for signs of the disease, testing of any animals with clinical signs, and testing all mastitis milk sent to laboratories.
The ministry is emphasising that Mycoplasma bovis is not a food safety risk. It is a disease that affects animal welfare and production.
It only affects bovines, including dairy cows and beef cattle. It is common in many food-producing nations (like Australia, the United States, and in Europe).
The programme is expected to begin in February and will be rolled out region by region.