Joint M. bovis eradication plan reaches significant milestone

Four years into a world-first attempt to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis, agreed jointly between the Government and farming sector groups, just one infected property remains in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor marked the milestone at the national bulk milk testing lab MilkTestNZ in Waikato today alongside eradication partners DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

“When we took our one shot to eradicate we did so to protect our national herd from a painful disease, our economy from a sharp shock, and our rural communities from widespread anxiety,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Our partnership with the primary sector was critical. No one in the world had attempted to eradicate M. bovis before, and if we were going to try something that had never been done, we needed to do so together.

“I want to acknowledge how tough it’s been for those farmers who have lost their herds and stock genetics built up over decades. Your action has preserved our productive sectors that underpin the prosperity of all New Zealanders.

“I acknowledge this important milestone today from which we can move forward into the next stage of the programme, to progress our goal towards eradication,” Jacinda Ardern said. Continue reading

Understanding climate science and emissions pricing

Why does agriculture need to take action on warming? How do targets, metrics and pricing work? What would going into the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) mean?

As Beef + Lamb NZ gears up for the agriculture emissions pricing consultation in February, those questions and the application to policy of the issues surrounding them have been put to climate change scientists Dave Frame and Adrian Macey for discussion in a one-hour podcast.

The podcast addresses the fundamentals of climate science as they relate to the farm sector and key considerations such as applying GWP*, the metric that’s getting a lot of attention because its champioons contend it better accounts for the different warming behaviours of short-lived gases such as methane – unlike the GWP100 metric used in international agreements which uses carbon equivalence.

More about the GWP* metric was contained in an earlier story. Continue reading

Sheep flock down, beef herd up in latest stock number survey

The total number of sheep in New Zealand decreased 0.8 percent (by 199,000 head) to an estimated 25.83 million while beef cattle numbers rose 2.5 per cent to 3.98 million, according to Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ)’s annual stock number survey.

The decline in sheep numbers was across both breeding ewes, down 0.5 per cent to 16.48 million, and hoggets, which decreased 0.6 per cent to 8.61 million. An increase in the number of beef cattle was driven largely by more rising two-year-old cattle, particularly in the North Island.

The decline in hogget numbers was most noticeable in Northland-Waikato-Bay of Plenty (6.7 per cent) and Southland (-7.9 per cent), where strong mutton prices encouraged greater levels of trading. Winter and spring 2020 conditions were difficult in some regions, particularly the South Island, leading to destocking of sheep prior to Christmas due to lack of feed. Drought and dry conditions along eastern parts of the country in 2021 led to tight feed conditions for many farmers. Continue reading

Mycoplasma bovis update: two new Active Confirmed properties in Canterbury

The Mycoplasma Bovis (M. bovis) Programme has advised of two new Active Confirmed properties in Canterbury, bringing the total to seven.

One Mid Canterbury/Ashburton property is directly linked by animal movements to an infected property detected from the Programme’s August Bulk Tank Milk screening.

The second property, in Canterbury/Selwyn district, was confirmed following a detect result from the September Bulk Tank Milk screening.

These newly confirmed properties demonstrate the Programme’s National Surveillance working as it should – detecting possible cases and showing us where to look to eliminate the infection.

Beef + Lamb NZ is emphasising this is not an outbreak – the M. bovis Programme is actively looking for final pockets of infected properties and fully expected to find more over spring, a time when there are more samples to test, animals are under stress from calving and 2018 heifers are entering the milking platform for the first time.

Nor does it appear widespread — no additional farms in the Mid Canterbury/Ashburton district other than those three dairies originally detected in August were found in September or October Bulk Tank Milk screening, giving confidence this is an isolated cluster connected by animal movements.

This underscores the need for NAIT records to be kept. They help to trace infected animals faster and stop the spread of the disease to other herds and other farms.

Incomplete NAIT records impede tracing infected cattle.

The M. bovis Programme’s surveillance tools like the bulk tank milk screening programme and beef sector surveillance have been developed to not only help find any remaining infection faster, but to give us all confidence long-term that New Zealand is free from the disease

The Programme is working closely with all affected farmers, their staff and families to ensure things run as smoothly as possible, and that they are well-supported.

Source:  Beef + Lamb NZ

Low methane emissions can be included in ram selection criteria

With the ram-buying season under way, commercial farmers are the first in the world to be able to include low methane emissions in their selection criteria

A research breeding value for methane emissions was launched in November 2019, the outcome of a 10-year breeding programme funded by Beef + Lamb New Zealand levy payers through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGGRC) and the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre.

AgResearch scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe, who has been leading the research programme, says for ten years the research team has been running two closed flocks side-by-side, a low methane emitting flock and a high methane emitting flock. Continue reading

New research reveals what makes high-performing farmers tick

Beef + Lamb New Zealand has posted the results of new research which reveals what makes high-performing farmers tick

The Red Meat Profit Partnership (RMPP) commissioned UMR Research (UMR) to ask a group of New Zealand’s highest performing sheep and beef farmers to identify the main drivers of their performance.

This research, which followed a similar study in 2015, identified the critical characteristics that enabled them to consistently achieve good results.

The research also focused on what had changed for these farmers, particularly the challenges they were facing and how they were responding to the issues compared to five years ago. Continue reading

New Zealand sheep and beef farms near to carbon neutrality – new research

Researchers have found New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms are already close to being carbon neutral and strengthens calls for the formal recognition of on-farm sequestration.

The study, led by Dr Bradley Case at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), estimates the woody vegetation on New Zealand sheep and beef farms is offsetting between 63 per cent and 118 per cent of their on-farm agricultural emissions.

If the mid-point in the report’s range is used, on average the woody vegetation on sheep and beef farms is absorbing about 90 per cent of these emissions.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says absolute greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand sheep and beef production have reduced by 30 percent since 1990. Continue reading

Farm leaders welcome plan to revitalise the wool sector

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) has welcomed the release of a new report aimed at making the strong wool sector more sustainable and profitable.

B+LNZ chairman Andrew Morrison says a healthy wool sector is important to many sheep meat producers.

The poor price for strong wool is consistently raised as an issue by many of our farmers, he said.

“We understand it has been a frustrating time and wool profitability is really challenging at the moment. 

“Meat processors have been great at responding to a diversity of markets and a diversity of products, and extracting value from co-products. The challenge is now to maximise sustainable production from this fifth quarter, being wool. ” Continue reading

Evaluation panel to consider funding for Mycoplasma bovis diagnostics research proposals

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), together with DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ, is calling for proposals for the diagnostics research outlined in the Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) Science Plan.

Accelerating the eradication of M. bovis from New Zealand is the main objective of the science plan and only diagnostics research that will contribute towards achieving this will be funded.

Dr John Roche, chair of the M. bovis Strategic Science Advisory Group and MPI’s chief science adviser, is looking forward to seeing what researchers and companies will put forward in response. Continue reading